My neighbor Bill passed away last week. I just found out yesterday when we ran into his son. Bill suffered a stroke a little over two years ago and his youngest son moved back home to help his mom take care of Bill. We first met Bill at a block party almost twenty years ago. We had just moved in and our landlord (and neighbor) lived, and still does, two doors down. He and his wife made sure to let us know about the block party. It was a great way to meet all the neighbors.Continue reading “Neighbors”
The second decade of the 21st century is ending (yes, I’m aware of the whole 19 vs. 20, 9 vs. 0 thing. I go with 0 is the lowest number, therefore 9 is the last of the decade). As we enter this third decade I am looking forward to a number of changes both big and small. I will start my full-time writing career this year. I will leave academia this year. We will move to a different place this year. Those are the big changes. And, they are quite big. And stressful. But, full of adventure and potential!
I have spent a fair amount of time this past year assessing and evaluating my life, my attitude, and my desires. Discovering that not only can I write fiction, but that I like to write it, and I’m actually pretty good at it has been eye-opening and mind-blowing. I have loved this kind of story as long as I can remember. I’m the kid who went through the children’s section of the library faster than the librarians could keep up. I discovered all those color fairy tale books…Red Fairy Tale Book, Yellow Fairy Tale Book, etc. I headed for the YA section as an elementary school kid. I ate up the science fiction, swords and sorcery, urban fantasy, etc. I loved thinking about how one would create such worlds, what kind of stories would happen in those worlds. I never thought I had enough ideas and creativity to actually create and write stories in those worlds.
Now, in middle age (OK, fine. Late middle age. Whatever), I am creating not one, but several different worlds, and dreaming up stories in those worlds. This is loads of fun! I wish I’d known about this before. But, then, I would not have taken the path that I have, and I know for certain that I would not have had the courage to let anybody read anything, never mind submit something for publication. I know now this is what I want to do and that I can do it and that I will be successful. I’m a much stronger person now then I was even a decade ago.
Heading into this new decade, I’m feeling almost like I’m a new person. I no longer care about the criticisms of people who are not close to me and not supportive of anything I do, unless that something is on a path or trajectory they approve of. I’ve removed several toxic people from my life. I’m publicly taking stands on things and some of those stands are not popular with a number of people who probably now consider me a “former friend.” Whatever. I prefer friends with whom I can vehemently disagree, discuss issues, and then go and have a wonderful time at dinner. I’m making sure that the people who are in my life are people I know have my back and I have theirs.
I’m starting my new year by traveling with students. If that doesn’t test strength I don’t know what will! I hope everybody has a great new year’s eve, and a strong start to the new year and the new decade!
The following is a comment I left on a post called “Fraying” at According To Hoyt. The post is about how our differences, exacerbated by social media and the apparent need for many people to engage in virtue signalling (showing the world that this is a REALLY GOOD THING or NOTHING TRUMP DOES IS OK IN MY EYES EITHER! or whatever it is that they feel the need to be publicly supportive of or angry about). Because of this need to virtue signal many people believe lies and slander about others that they know personally and have known for years. Years worth of personal knowledge, friendship and shared experiences go out the window with the need to show those whose judgments they simultaneously crave and fear that yes indeed, I’m still totally supportive of this group!
Just found this today.
It dovetails right with what you are saying about worrying about how others judge us, *that* they judge us and how we can get out from under that mammoth. Those that believed the slander about you, Sarah, will believe slander about anyone they know because they value staying in the group more than their authentic voice. They don’t realize there is another group “out there” which will welcome them in. Or they are afraid to even go look because of what others might say.
I started writing fiction because of a word prompt you had way back in the summer of 2018. I’m still in academia, but I have a plan and a system for leaving and yes, I’m going to make writing my full time job. I also know I’m going to get laughed at by colleagues. But then, due to events over the last year or so, I’ve already discovered I can’t trust most of them anyway.
Here’s to jumping and knowing the net will appear!
The linked piece is what I want to talk about now.
The mammoth in the piece is a metaphor for our need for and fear of others’ acceptance of us. The author points out that we all have mammoths in us, but the trick to leading your authentic life and leading with your authentic voice is to control your mammoth.
Leading with your authentic voice, being public with it, is a very scary proposition. You open yourself up to ridicule, harassment, and ex-communication from co-workers, friends, and even family. When I decided to embark on this author journey I hesitated to even tell my husband that this is what I wanted to do. I was afraid he was going to laugh at me and also (very legitimately) bring up the issue of the two of us trying to live on one salary.
In the end, of course, I did tell him. And he was and is extremely supportive (I never should have doubted him. I know he would walk through fire drenched in gasoline for me). Others I’ve told have also been very supportive. A couple have asked me if I plan on continuing in academia while writing, thinking that of course, I will have to do the sensible thing and maintain a guaranteed income. (Did I mention that tenure is a life-time job guarantee and that I’d have to be insane to walk away from that? I did? Well, OK. To continue then.) When I say no, I’m jumping from academia to full time writing, most times friends tilt their heads, think about it for a few seconds, and then nod and smile and say something along the lines of “Cool! That sounds exciting!” I’m discovering that I’m very lucky in my circle of friends and I am beyond grateful for all of them.
So, my mammoth is seriously objecting to my leaving a tenured job for something that is simply riddled with uncertainty. Taming and controlling that mammoth has been difficult and scary. One of the things my mammoth does is indulge in internal conversations between me and what I imagine others will say. Needless to say this exercise does not result in any resolutions to anything, rather it simply ramps up my stress levels. I’m slowly getting that bit under control.
I read the linked piece today and I think it was the last little thing that I needed to convince me that yes, I am doing the right thing for me. I wrote some more on book #2 yesterday and today. Yesterday was a bit of a struggle, but today, things came easily. I’m not really sure yet where this book is headed (I have a vague idea, but no specifics), but I’m sure it will wind up someplace really fun and interesting. And, it should be a good story getting there.
I will no longer run my life and my ambitions according to those who are too buried by their own mammoths. I am listening to my authentic voice and giving it room to breathe and grow. It is not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding in a multitude of ways and I can’t wait! There’s a system or method to my madness and I’m heading out.
Living by the saying “Jump and the net will appear” is scary and exhilarating all at the same time. But I think this is the best way to truly live and I’m going for it.
Do it! Don’t let your mammoth smother you and don’t let the mammoths of others sit on you.
I was just reading over on Mad Genius Club a post about real life interfering with writing. And, damn does it ever. Clear evidence…I started this post yesterday. Sigh. It’s interfering with fiction writing as well as blog writing. Although, with the blog, I suppose that could be seen as a good thing. I’m not staring at the screen all day. Plus I’m too busy to get all verklempt and angsty over what’s going on in life. I’m just dealing with it.
This week, as I mentioned before, I’ve been editing Book #1. That’s still ongoing and actually going well. The other day, I got tired of editing and went back to find other things I’ve started and ideas I’ve jotted down. There are a lot of them. Who knew I had all these ideas floating around in my head? Not me! I’m grateful I’ve found them. I’m also planning on cleaning up my desk so that I can actually find things and ideas when I want to. What a concept! I have a bad tendency to stash things away where “I’ll remember to go back there” and of course never remember. Today, after this, I will clean the desk and then return to editing and new writing. The new writing in between lets my brain percolate over some of these ideas. I also have to do some housecleaning as a friend is coming up tomorrow for the weekend.
It’s a good month for friends this month. We’ve spent time with local friends at the pop-up beer gardens here. Those are always nice. There’s just something about drinking in a park. Very summer. Last night an old, old friend of mine came over for dinner. He lives in CA, but his mom lives out here so he drops in when he can when he visits her. He and I used to work together in aerospace ages ago. Worst job ever. I got laid off, he managed to skip around just ahead of the layoff fairies. In the end, he resigned. We’ve kept in touch over the years, even after hubby and I moved out here.
Then, a college friend comes up this weekend, and next weekend, a former student who is now a friend comes in for the weekend. Then we’re heading to OR for our annual visit with my family. I’m enjoying all of it and looking forward to all of it. But, it is real life and it does interfere with writing. Oh, well. It’s worth it.
Now, back to the writing! OK, clean the desk first. Sheesh.
It’s been a week. In that time, I’ve done…what? Write, edit, read. All good. We did have to say good-bye to our feline buddy, Fritz. He was one of those cats who, when you looked at him, nodded his head and gave a silent meow, as if he was saying “s’up? How you doing?”. He was a totally cool dude and I will really miss him. Hubby was hit hard. Fritz is buried in the back yard along with Junior Basement Cat (a.k.a. Junior), and Little Bit. Just between us, don’t go into the back yard on Halloween!
It’s also been a learning week for me. I have al ot of friends who understand what it’s like to lose a pet. Not only that, there are an equal number of people I’ve only interacted with online who also understand what it’s like. The support both groups have given is simply amazing. You’d think that people might be less than supportive when you say your cat died. I know that I sympathize, but I’m always astonished that others feel as strongly as I do about losing a pet. It’s always eye-opening for me. I’m not sure why, but I guess I always expect people to say “well, it was just a cat…” but they don’t. They tell me stories about their cats, tell me that when their pet goes they will be equally devastated, all sorts of things. It’s always amazing and always leaves me feeling much better about humanity in general.
Another thing Fritz’s death has given me is more awareness of my quirks and supposed coping mechanisms that isn’t all that successful. I’ve realized that when I’m stressed I mess around and don’t do anything of any consequence. I was upset about losing Fritz-man. I procrastinated on Facebook and played Candy Crush. i did do some work, but not as much as I should have or wanted to. I couldn’t seem to concentrate enough to get anything done. There’s no real excuse for that. Working for myself, depending on my writing means I have to write even when I don’t feel like it. There’s no getting around that.
I did do work later in the week and I’ve been reading some useful stuff this week. I highly recommend Janice Hardy’s books “Understanding Show, Don’t Tell” and “Understanding Conflict” for anybody doing any writing at any point. These are invaluable. I read “Show, Don’t Tell” I’ve started back through my book and I’m rewriting sentences and paragraphs. I can already see the difference. I’m working my way through with all of Hardy’s key words/red flag words. It’s time consuming and tedious at times. But totally worth it. I just started “Understanding Conflict” and already I’m getting some good ideas on how to rework some scenes and some general story arcs to up the tension for the reader and the conflict for the characters. This is hella lot more fun than revising academic work, that’s for sure!
This post started out about friends. We psent this afternoon with friends hanging out at the beer garden/food truck spot/whatever, on the river bank. It was a nice day for hanging out with the dog, drinking beer, and watching the leftover Pride Parade folks wander by. Everybody was in a good mood, the sun was shining, and my friend’s dog got a lot of attention so we were quite popular. We all got to catch up, and talk to other people. A good way to end this week and begin next week. I’m very grateful we had this afternoon to catch up and hang out.
Tree trimming people coming tomorrow which means the day will be interrupted, so I need to be organized early in the morning so that I don’t lose too much time. I will lose time, but since I know that’s going to happen I can figure out how I’m going to make up for it. I’ll work it out.
Have a good week all!
Last night was a good night. I got to hang out with some friends I haven’t seen in a long while. Hubby was playing poker (hosted by the husband of one of said friends), so we each had separate social engagements. This is a very good thing. He got to hang out with a couple of our friends and some others, drink and play cards, and I got to see friends and talk chick things.
One thing I am reminded of when I meet up with this group of women is how lucky I am with regards to my husband. He’s thoughtful, supportive, and an equal partner in all things in our marriage. He does laundry, cooks, cleans, and takes care of a number of the grosser chores around the house (cleaning litter boxes for example). Last night I listened to the frustrations, anxieties and downright anger from two friends about their husbands. One has just told her husband that she wants a divorce. She has gone back and forth about this for several months now. She’s clearly not happy. Several times during the evening, as we were talking and she was describing some incident, or a reaction, she started tearing up. The other friend was having mild anxiety attacks as she listened to some of these issues. She’s also having problems with her husband and simultaneously dealing with her parent’s estate, trying to sell her childhood home, deal with a sister who doesn’t want to leave the house, a husband who seems ignorant of her wants, needs, desires, until and unless she spells them out. Multiple times. She wants to leave (I’m pretty sure), but she does not work outside the home and is unsure of her own skills and talents (which are numerous). Plus her daughter is pregnant and she is stressing over that as well.
As we all talked, I realized that I am very grateful for what I have. I have had a couple of bad relationships (patricide anyone??) but, I like to think that I learned from those relationships and avoided repeating the mistakes.
On the other hand, I felt a bit guilty. Not because I had nothing of consequence to complain about, but because I found myself thinking “you have said the same thing, made the same complaints for the last year or so. Do something!” Of course, without a job, and feeling like she has no skills, or is too old or whatever, makes contemplating leaving extremely scary. I cannot overlook that. I do try to remind her that she still has her skill set and that she is capable of taking care of herself. And, I try to dial back my annoyance (the annoyance is what makes me feel guilty).
All of this is by way of saying, life is funny. We fight some battles forever and always simply on the principle of the matter. Other battles, we seem to give up before the battle even starts. Lately I’ve been contemplating major life changes. Thinking about what I want to do/will be doing is very scary. There will be less money, we’ll be in a different city. This whole thing will take a lot of work and effort. And, there will be times when it won’t work out. But I’ll have to keep going. The more I think about what’s ahead, the more excited I am to get started. But then, I have started in many ways. While I still have a day job, my priorities are changing. This is going to be an interesting ride.
Life is funny. But, that’s what makes it an adventure.