Bliss or Pipe Dream?

Back to the grind stone.
On my way home from Mexico aboard Delta Airlines, I watched an episode of On Creativity, a serial that offers insights into the creative world hosted by Paula Wallace of the Savannah College of Art & Design. In this episode, one of her guests was Steve Lassater, co-creator of Pixar. During the interview, they showed his commencement speech at the college and he brought out of a bag a very well loved Woody doll from The Toy Story that had been sent to him by a young boy who no longer needed to love this Woody doll.  This boy included a letter that asked Mr. Lassater to bring Woody to a place where he could be with other dolls forever more. This was a tearful reading by Mr. Lassater as he held the Woody doll up to his audience for viewing, one could see that one foot was missing, the clothing on the doll was faded and stained and the limbs were limp and well worn. During the interview in general, the idea was conveyed by Mr. Lassater of the importance of carefully selecting a vocation for which one would not ever feel that they had worked a day in one’s life. Am I doing this with my life? Do I live to work? Or, do I work to live? I do enjoy the travel gig, in general. However, there are so many instances during the course of my work that I find my efforts less than appreciated or even respected.
While on my trip, I received word that one client had called the office ranting and raving about her rental car not having been fully prepaid and that she hoped the rest of the trip I had planned for her would not be an equal disaster. Never mind that during the booking process, I told her over the telephone that it would not be possible to set up her pre-cruise car rental on a prepaid basis as there was not a rental company that offered that possibility.  Instead, her rental rate would be guaranteed using her credit card but that her cost would be paid locally at time of rental pick up at the Houston Airport. And, with her final document package, I included a cover letter that went over all of the details including her car rental and it stated the same as noted above. These details were conveyed orally and in writing. She wasn’t listening, and she didn’t read. And, she then reads my administrator the riot act and uses explitives in the process. Nice. Another client was informed by telephone voicemail and email that I would be out of the office until December 8th, and that I would contact her on my return to set up an in person appointment to go over their final documents for their Europe trip happening over the holidays. While I am gone, she just shows up at the office asking to see me. Another client requests a 28 day honeymoon to Southeast Asia to start January 2nd, 2016; his inquiry came in October 26th. I work on this with two revisions, sending him complex independent custom itinerary proposals with everything they wanted to experience, including cooking classes, temple tours in Angkor Wat, couples massages, all private services, interior Asia flights, and five star hotels. And he sits on it for almost two months. Now, he is ready and I am scheduled to talk with him this morning. With his commitment, we now have to rush to book everything and hope things are still available because he just couldn’t get around to it.  And, take care of the Visas on a rush expedite basis.

I wish I could say that these stressors do not affect my gut. But the truth is, I just got done with an endoscopy yesterday and the damage is fairly severe… meds and modified lifestyle are required to heal. So, does this work give me joy? Am I in my element? Or, am I just another dog in the musher’s sled, always feeling the crack of the whip at my back and pushed to move move move… to someone else’s demands.
What would I do if I could do what I wanted to do? Well, I would learn to write well. I would busy myself in learning the craft, every aspect of it and making a life of writing for myself. I wouldn’t just spend an hour or two before work and some left over time after work and on weekends. I would throw myself into it with all my might. And, would this put me into my true bliss? Or, is this a grass is greener thing? Seeing all fo those resorts for the purpose of serving a bride somewhere wishing to wed on a beach, is that my calling? Serving clients traveling all over Europe and Asia, is that really it? Or, is it writing? How do I know the answer to that?  Is my writing dream a foolish pipe dream?
For now at least, one step in from of the other. I have over 50,000 words to work on to create a first novel. And, I must continue this daily writing practice, sign up for courses, workshops, get to know other writers perhaps. Come out of the vacuum.   Possibly work towards a retirement of writing bliss?  At least that’s a goal.

Finding Your Voice. Noticing Life.

In preparation for my writing group meeting on Sunday at the Old Goat Coffee Shop, I recall that I am meant to have reviewed and worked on the chapter one exercises in Susan M. Tiberghien’s book: One Year to a Writing Life. Angela and I had agreed to linger for another month on this chapter since we had only really done a few of the exercises each, and there were still some good ones on which to focus.
Before digging in, I assess my surroundings this morning. I sit at the Starbucks on the corner of 54th & Lyndale, my old work hood. This revamped location is a bit more sterile than the old layout. When I first popped in a few months ago to check it out – it felt too crowded to me. In an attempt to figure out what they had in mind, I survey the seating a bit more closely. They have added quite a bit of high top counter space along the window facing Lyndale- this used to be the place where you would find two overstuffed leather arm chairs with small side tables, and about three cafe tables. That seating could accommodate about six people. Now, they have this long high counter that is mounted to the window so that the high top chairs are facing out and they are very close together. This means that if I were to consider sitting there- I would likely have to rub elbows with a complete stranger as I attempted to craft some writing finesse. Not comfortable. Then, in the middle of the floor they have a tall long table – again community style, that could seat a family of ten with bar stool style chairs… a high top dining room table for 10 right smack dab in the middle of traffic. The line for ordering your latte is right next to that tall table for ten. Again, here if I were to take up one chair, the assumption is that I am inviting others to join me at the table- like I want to be part of a club or something. I can surmise that this is intentional – again, bringing strangers together? And, there is another such family dining table – this one the more traditional low style, and this one is seating for eight. A man sits at the corner of that table listening to his mega-headphones music which I can hear from across the room and he is laughing to himself while sipping on his coffee. He wears sun glasses in the morning, in a darkened coffee house, black clothing, a black cap and some black athletic shoes with the white swoosh. His left hand cradles his chin with his elbow resting on the wooden table. And I wonder, is he listening to music or a comedy routine. He seems relaxed and pleased with whatever he is listening to or thinking about. Next to his table at the far end against a wall are two straight backed leather chairs with a more taught and stiff leather and then a small side table in between them. Cozy but they are less than two feet from the end of that table for eight… so if one were to sit there, one would expect people sitting in such close proximity that it would be either difficult to concentrate or hard to hear. Then, there are the two tables for four pushed against my wall, opposite side of the store from the table for eight but just next to the table for ten. This is where I am sitting, facing outside – looking straight onto the traffic light and traffic zooming northbound on Lyndale; in my view is also the condiment and creamer station. There is only enough room between the tables for ten and my table fo one to allow one person to walk, by but not two. I remember when I came in here when they first openend that I felt squished in and not relaxed. It was a morning not too unlike today, and I was meant to buy coffee and hang out with my iPad to write a bit. But on that morning, it was so crowded, many seats were occupied, and I didn’t feel like squeezing in to claim a spot. So, instead, I ordered my latte and headed to work without writing. At the time, I don’t think I was that conscious of my feelings of claustrophobia from the layout of the store, but now in hindsight, I wonder about the people who planned the layout. They have many chairs in this place, many places to put fannies. And I wonder what this place might be like in the evenings- is it filled up? Are people content to sit next to strangers at these long tables? Do they meet new people? Are these the kind of people seeking this kind of forced connection with others? I am likely overevaluating but I am wonder in this world of ours that often feels disconnected and a solo experience in many ways; are commercial endeavors attempting to bring together people? Or, is this simply a plan to maximize revenues in a coffee shop? Make room for the largest possible number of people to reside for awhile as they enjoy the products of Starbucks? It’s probably the latter and I am sure that a lot of evaluation went into this design. They likely consulted with experts and maybe have their own expert department that collaborates on maximizing flow and revenue during various parts of the day. And this layout also factors in the wall of merchandise on the other side of that line that forms next to the table of ten to my right. Coffee beans, mugs, grinders, teas and more- all lined up in three shelves of merchandise space. It’s all about capitalism and likely little to do with psychotherapy. Leave it to me to look to deeply into a mundane thing like use of space.
On this morning, as I spend less than an hour at Starbucks at the corner of Lyndale and 54th, I find only about five of us lingering at tables and chairs- the rest of the flow is a steady stream of commuters moving as quickly as possible through the coffee concoction line on their way to work. So, having made enough of this space- having likely spent too much time evaluting things, I now move to the book.
Chapter one is all about journaling. It covers first what journaling is and why do it. Some of the key points that garner a nod from me include (and not necessarily layed out in this order in the book):
-To find your voice

-To discover what you think

-To capture memories (places, characters, conversations, events)
The morning light outside has brightened since my arrival only about twenty minutes ago. Now, I look up from the keyboard and see that a man has installed himself at the end of the counter facing the street- last chair, close to the wall. He wears a ball cap and glasses, his light tan leather jacket is drapped over the back of his chair. His hands are holding the morning paper. In one of the leather chairs, another man- this one has his laptop on his lap and his coffee on the side table. He is reading from the laptop and he looks pensive to me. Three people are squeezed into the condiment station and five people are lined up to make their order. Behind me a woman and her two small children have paused for their morning breakfast together – afterwards, it is possible that she will walk them the half block to the catholic school just up the way and across the street. The place is humming with activity and capitalism and community are in full swing.
As I look at the front window, I notice that the building that used to be there is gone. There used to be a pizza place there- but it burned one evening about two years ago and sat there with the remains of the blaze for quite a long time. They finally brought it down.
Observations of my surrounding, overhearing conversations, paying attention to my environment. That is what writing is for me. Gaining a sense of hightened awareness of the world that ebbs and flows right in front of my eyes. Being conscious of life, the pulse of it. I love this act of writing that helps me to float on a different plane. Without it, it is almost as if life just passes without an expression of it. Writing is like talking out loud but on the screen (was going to say on the page or on paper- but these days the writing is generally electronic). Yes- this is the best part of my day- a way to help me breath better. To feel things in a more meaningful way. to help me in planning – not just the day, but the week and even the year. To establish a pattern of living life in a state that is more satisfying.

A Blogger’s World

I set the alarm for later than usual. Last night, I was like an owl in a tree- wide awake and no urge to dial it down. I watched another episode of Longmire, Season 4 through Netflix and caressed Sofie as she settled into her evening routine. For about a week I have been sleeping in the guest room as I was concerned about possible mold in my room. The bed in the guestroom is ancient, flat and feels spare. By this I mean that I don’t have any sense of support from that mattress. My mattress on the other hand is marvelous. I have had it now for over ten years and still the same delicious support. A keeper. And it seems Sofie feels the same way. Actually what I think is working for Sofie is being back in familiar territory. The bedding, the walls, the sounds- all like she just got home from a long vacation to a place of uncertainty. Her entire posture has changed as she lounges on “our” bed. Her paws are pushed out in front to her with her two front skinny legs forming a channel within which to nestle her little head. Her eyes are half closed and she emits a sense of total calm and relief at being home again. I admit, I like my room so much better than the guest room. And having received the test results back from the lab which although indicated I had four types of spores on my carpet, the tech says that these spores are rating on their scale as “rare”. This evidently means there is no risk that mold is growing under the carpet but rather that I may have brought them in from outside and the end result is that I spent $325 to learn that I need to be a better housekeeper. Ok then. I moved back into my room before doing a thorough overhaul of the room because quite frankly I missed sleeping in my own bed. So I move forward with the idea that I will attend to these chores soon but in the meantime, I have slept here for five years and I am sleeping here tonight.
So this late wake up today brings me to a shorter writing session as I sit and sip my “Ringwald”- yes, that is the name of this particular coffee concoction while writing in the adjoining seating area of a local co-op near my workplace. This co-op opened about a year and a half ago and it is busy. People enjoy shopping here and the seating area.  It is busy in the mornings as folks gather for breakfast, reading up on the latest news on the smart phones and most of us seated with a tablet and keyboard clicking away. Are the others working on “business” or perhaps catching up on email? Or maybe writing as I am with the intent to post to a blog?
The blog world has captured me. I have heard criticisms of bloggers – mostly read a bit about the self centeredness of someone writing a journal about their lives, or that they are not that good, or that it is a waste of time. And I wonder at all this harshness in people. Why are we so hard on each other? What’s wrong with a blog outlet anyway? The interesting thing about it for me is the aspect of delving into the past, evaluating the present and considering the future – essentially, drilling into parts of my life to get a better picture of things past, present and future. For someone like me that doesn’t have someone else in her life to bounce things off of on a regular basis, it is extremely therapeutic and helpful. It allows me to explore ideas, and yes- pains and past hurts, but also future potential avenues I could walk down and doors that I could open up – that I may not have fully understood before the exercise of writing down life. And, with the WordPress environment, I am delighted when even one person has considered reading my expressions. I don’t need someone to approve really but it is comforting that someone has bothered to read it. This community exists of souls that are reaching out across the cyber universe and touching one another with their personal quips, emotional reflections and serious observations. And we learn from each other by reading each others work. And occasionally, when something really resonates- we touch the star to show our appreciation and if really compelled we reach out with a few words of praise or feedback. I am loving it and the platform keeps me chugging along with my self-promised daily pages. It’s a new world and I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.