Over Commitment & Time Poor.

It feels like forever since my last post. So much going on. It’s one of those summers when I find it hard to find a moment in between commitments. There has not been any time to free write. My morning pages have gone by the way side. 

In one instant, I had no commitments other than work and home life … and then in the next moment, I find myself overcommitted. Overcommitment for me is having more than one thing to focus on besides my work and my home life. 

 Right now, I am part of a book group, an Artist’s Way Creative Group and now also a writing class. The first and last are ones I have had on a list to join for quite some time. I have put the middle one on a brief hold because of the writing class. But even so, the work that each requires for preparation makes my personal time feel a bit smooshed.

If there is one thing I don’t want to have happen is a mediocre effort at the one thing that I enjoy and which I hold most dear: My Writing Time.

My book group is taking me on literary journeys that I would otherwise not have experienced. It’s opening me up to new acquaintances. It is exposing me to some good and not so good writing. Reading offers a chance to study writing. So this is a plus. And, so far, I am greatly enjoying he process. What I had not counted on is that the book selections of 300+ pages, and in some ways, the literary density of each selection has caused me to pause and consider sentences and paragraphs more intentionally.  This has resulted in a slower reading process than I had anticipated. The current selection is The Wilderness World of John Muir- a collection of essays by author John Muir, edited by Edwin Way Teale. I have been reading the book for about a week and I am only around 70 pages into it. I have covered his boyhood in Scotland, his family’s emigration to America and settling in Wisconsin, and his young adulthood foray into invention- quite clever that Muir. I am enthralled by the language and delighted by his adventures. But it is going so slowly.   

While I read that book, I am in a writing class which is taught at a marvelous writing center in the city.  The class is called: Book In A Month.    In about six weeks time, we are to all have a first draft. I confess that since I already have my first draft, I signed up for this class to get unstuck and learn how to properly write a book. The class is really an encouraging session to help motivate us to write. I likely needed to sign up for an actual MFA Course in order to get the information I was seeking. I am a complete novice when it comes to novel writing. The truth is what I really needed to know was proper framework, the bones of the novel- the parameters. What constitutes a chapter? How do I indent? How do I break up the paragraphs? How do I move from one point of view to another smoothly? Is it ok to have multiple points of view? When should I have the various plot points show up – what are those three parts to the novel again? What am I doing? Who do I think I am?   I have a book (in fact many books) that can help me, so I am likely just fine.  It’s just that I was hoping for a more formal setting within which I could learn how to better write and propel me towards authorship one day.

What I have on the page for my novel thus far is around 55,000 words. They flew out of me in about a month during NaNoWriMo 2015. I am now at the stage where I am looking at all those words and trying to figure out how to better shape them into a bonafide novel. The real deal. Something worth reading. Something worth pitching! And, I need guidance on whether to stick with the original style of Historical Fiction and if it is prudent to keep or remove the element of murder mystery within the covers. My novel is basically macabre episode from Foyle’s War set in Norway during the Nazi occupation. Women are showing up dead on the shoreline of the Oslo Fjord- women who had disappeared from ordinary life and presumed deeply involved in the underground movement. It’s a piece of fiction- I am not aware of any such murders having actually occurred during this time period. A woman showed up in my novel during the flow of writing through NaNoWriMo 2015. She has copper curls, she is lying in a bay in the fjord, naked. The man who placed her there is struggling with his secret. Is it inappropriate to include a murder mystery within a serious topic such as the occupation of a country within a non-fiction historical context?

In my writing class, there are 19 of us. For our remaining four classes, the class size has been divided up into 4-5 people each session reading about 7 minutes worth of their novel and getting 7 minutes worth of critique. I am scheduled for two weeks from now. Perhaps during that session, I will showcase a bit of the mix in my story and see what they think. What frustrates me is that I don’t want to continue shaping my novel if I am completely off-base with my premise and development to date.
So, I procrastinate and do other things; for instance, read about John Muir. I have around 280 pages to go!

Follow Your Bliss

Have I disappointed God in my choices? I know that I have disappointed my mother. I don’t say parents because I don’t think my father has any real opinion on the topic. But I know that mother is disappointed. Mostly, she is concerned or at least that is how she offers it to me. Concern. She wants me to have the best and experience the best.  It’s my lack of church attendance that has her worried.

I get it.

As I look back on my experiences in certain company, I know that my comfort level has been way off kilter when I engage in relationships with people on a forced basis. In years past, I have spent hours of time in an effort at community through church fellowship with people based on a that shared commitment to a certain religious order. And while it is true that one of the dearest friends that I have ever enjoyed in my entire life came from that religious activity, she is the only one with whom I have had a truly authentic and deep friendship through any kind of religious organization.  Everyone else has felt surface and unsatisfying.

Guilt fills me when I open up and share this experience. Guilt because fellowship in spirit is not meant to really be for one’s own edification. It’s not meant to be about me. It’s meant to be about sharing with others, supporting others, giving to others, recognizing others, lifting others up. Being the hand of Christ to others. Being his ears to listen, his arms to hold and comfort, his eyes to see, his laughter and his encouragement and his counsel through breath and tongue and teeth as we express ourselves in love. Perhaps the reason I have been disappointed over the years is that my efforts in my quest to offer myself to others has felt like a one way street. And then, more guilt. For it is not in seeking to receive that we give.

So, instead, I walk solo most days. I have some friendships for which I have felt truly blessed. A co-worker whom I cherish beyond words and whose smile and whose life I hold very dear. I am so grateful for the growth we have experienced these past few years and look forward to many more exchanges and moments of connection with her.  Another friend whom I have enjoyed for two decades offers a connection and depth of understanding that encourages and reassures.

At this stage in my life, I need my exchanges and expenditures of time to be, for the most part, authentic. No longer can I invest time and energy into activities and responsibilities that do not support who I am at the core of my being. My exchanges with my co-worker are authentic. She helps fill a part of that hunger and need. And I hope I equally fulfill her in some way- and help her on her own path to find her way amidst the din and chaos of life.

On Sundays, these days, I feel more spiritually connected on a quiet morning with words, books, nature, my dog. I feel the blessings and I feel encouraged and energized to move into the week with a renewed commitment to offer love to my fellow man. And all of this feels like a blessing. Instead of heading into a building with hundreds of souls gathering, I find my way to a quiet place of peace. For now, this has to be acceptable. As I consider what my higher power would think of my behavior, I hope it would not involve disdain or disapproval.

These moments of quiet on Sundays have also led to moments of clarity. Inspiration. On one such day a few weeks ago, I had an urge to check on whether classes on writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis would be on offer for this coming fall. To my pleasant surprise, I found a class starting mid-July on novel writing. This six week session would be led by a published author of about forty novels, an author who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller List. While that is not necessarily my goal, the notion of finding guidance from one who has walked the road to publication and could have some valuable insights, tips and advice in general- was highly appealing. So, I signed up! And, my class starts tonight. My first official writing class. I have taken a Saturday workshop in the past, but only one workshop and that was over ten years ago. This step, this commitment, this movement towards a new reality- has me energized. It’s exciting. I know not where this might lead, but I feel it is in the right direction nevertheless.

Grateful for spiritual moments of introspection, when the noise and the busyness of the world retreats into the distant background and I find myself in front of my deepest yearnings and revelations of my purpose.

Perhaps, one day, this writing thing will be instrumental in helping another soul find his or her way to their own purpose and their own passion. It might give them the confidence to try something new, to shake themselves up and to reach for heights only imagined in childhood dreams. Those dreams that left us giddy in youth and offered moments of sparkle but for some reason got left behind or placed on a shelf in order to move in a more responsible direction, one that is walked only for the purpose of gaining approval and or to receive an acknowledgment from those that might have been serving in a role of leadership.   To what end?  What are we hoping to gain from such approvals?

One day, I hope I find myself on a cliff somewhere outside of a small cottage, sitting at a table with writing instruments before me. I hope to feel the soft wind blowing through the long tresses of my silver hair. I imagine I will be wearing a merino blend lace shawl in a color that evokes maple leaves and coco beans and gold leaf which I have knitted and wrapped around my body to chase away the chill. I see that a sweet canine with soft white and sable hair and perky little ears is curled up with her chin resting on the top of my foot. A bird soars overhead. I hear crashing waves below.  The willow tree branches on the tree next to me are swaying gently to and fro. And, I breathe. And, I smile. I have found my bliss here on this cliff, in my golden years.

Are you following your bliss?

Freedom from Fear

Independence. Freedom. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  
Do we even fully understand the concept and the gift we have received from both our forefathers and the men and women of our armed forces who continue to fight for that right?
We are not the only free country. We are one of the biggest and the beacon for others to follow, but we are not the only one that is free.
Nor are we the best free country. Some suggest we are the best country in the world.  
When I travel to other parts of the world and encounter freedoms there, I wonder at the assumption some make in America that ours is the best kind of freedom, the only kind of freedom for which fighting is worthwhile.  
And there are those fighting against our freedom. They want to snatch it away from any society that practices freedom, independence, autonomy from dictatorships. These powers want to invalidate the security of anyone living a life of freedom. Terror seeks to destroy any vestige of calm and peace one might find in the home sweet home of the United States of America or any other free country. 
On this Fourth of July weekend, we are assaulted by images in the media, of terror run rampant in other parts of the world. Places where we presume freedom does not exist. Places where fear and insecurity are the norm. It is in these places that we accept that this is part of daily life. But here, in America, we are not accustomed yet to the idea of a cafe being shot up by a gunman. We have not yet witnessed hostages in an every day life setting. Aside from the San Bernardino and Orlando shootings that occurred within the last year. And for those, we have a base understanding that those were different somehow. The men who directed those acts were a bit mentally unstable, after all. So, it’s different, right? Or is it?  
On The Kelly File- a show that runs each night on the Fox Network, two nights ago Megyn Kelly facilitated a town hall like gathering of people, including some of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. These folks were gathered to discuss terror in general as well as their own personal experiences with terror. When I tuned in, they were in the midst of discussing the recent Ataturk Airport Terrorist Act in Istanbul that claimed over 40 lives; it happened less than a week ago. There was an intense caution that we were now a country on alert as the director of the CIA issued warnings about the risk of an attack now on the homeland. This threat to America is evolving. Megyn cuts over to Trace Gallagher, a FOX News Correspondent- to hear a latest report on an audio recording that had been uncovered from ISIS which called on attacks on the West during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in early June and ends July 5th. 
With the recent spate of violence and especially those done in allegiance to ISIS, one has to wonder if there will be targets in the U.S. over the 4th of July holiday weekend.    
The truth is that there have been so many terroristic incidents in our country already. But just like the school shootings, our society has an ability to rebound and keep moving forward. We carry a resilience that helps us forget too soon – the violence. Until another crops up and another speech from the president reminds us that once again, violence has rung out, Iives have been lost, hope is faltering. 
Perhaps the issue is two and maybe even three fold. 1) Fear. 2) Concern over political correctness- and intent on not profiling, of not breeding hatred, of having a positive attitude and 3) a lack of understanding on the part of the west of the cultural and depth (thousands of years of history) of the hatred which exists within a population that is attracted to and becomes sucked into the threat itself: muslim extremism.   
How can the West even begin to consider a remedy to a situation for which they do not have a proper historical context or depth of understanding – of what it at the root, what has bred this hatred in the first place.   
I once sat in on a discussion regarding the overwhelming history of a people that goes back to biblical times- these tribes that hated each other from the very beginning. Sunni. Shiite. History is unclear to me- and I recognize that in order to have even an inkling of what is going on in this world of ours, I must learn all I can. How else will I have any proper insight into participating in the legal and political system as an informed citizen? Most people, I believe, vote based on popularity. It’s like a reality TV show- not a life and death consequence and responsibility.  
These tribes have hated one another for centuries, and they continue to hate each other now.

While I listen to the news and have paid attention for years, I still do not have a proper understanding of the basis of the rage and hatred and the perspective of this population that wants the west eradicated. They want to infiltrate and bring down the west.   

The idea of not profiling a population that wants to bring something called Sharia Law into the west and overtake the west with their way of life. Most people that I interact with have not paid any attention to the language that surrounds the conflict in the Middle East. Words like “Sharia Law” or “Caliphate”. They don’t mean much to most people, because most people have not been paying attention. Buried heads in the sand. Look the other way. Ignore. Think about other things. Focus on happy thoughts.  
“I have stopped watching the news” I hear from one friend. “It’s too depressing”.
It’s as if they are saying: if I ignore all of this, maybe it will just go away. And if it doesn’t go away, well…  I can’t do anything about it anyway, so what’s the use.

Back to the Kelly File, I hear one man in the audience suggest that the perpetrator of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shoot-up was a misogynistic man who also hated gay people. Megan cuts in and asks:  but is that not the characteristic of most terrorists: women hating, gay hating, western society hating men who are intent on destroying anyone who is not the same as them; are they not all mentally unstable? (my words not hers but the general idea of her thread).  
Another woman in the audience gets angry and suggests that the man in the back row has hijacked the conversation, has redirected the conversation from terrorism to domestic violence; the man has belittled the issue of terrorism and coined it domestic violence and in so doing, has made the issue smaller than it is.   
As an audience member on her couch, I wonder. What can be done? Anything? Are we to simply watch our world unravel and witness the destruction of civilization?

Freedom. It’s worth fighting for, at the very least, it’s worth paying attention to the signs of it’s destruction around the world. It’s vital to not ignore the mortal wounds to independence. Whether our country’s or any western country’s grasp of it.   
If you are diagnosed with an early stage cancer, do you ignore it and hope it will go away? Or, do you do everything in your power to eradicate it before it metastasizes? The word metastasis has already been used in the news to describe ISIS and the cells which have spread throughout the world. Is it too late? Has the cancer grown beyond the possibility of a cure. Is there no hope of remission?  
Independence Day. I hope for a day when we can once again fly our flag with confidence in freedom, security, peace and happiness- a happiness that is not overshadowed by fear