On living a small life

17 01 2017

3454-dreamsWhen I was a kid, my parents told me I could be and do anything I wanted (as long as it required a college degree and wasn’t embarrassing). As a graduating nursing student, my prof leaned into my ear and said, “I know you’re going to set the world on fire!”

I don’t think she meant arson.

So I grew up with these expectations that if I worked hard enough, the world was going to be my oyster and I would rule all with my kindly queenliness. I would MAKE A CONTRIBUTION.

Didn’t help that my mum was one of the first female lawyers to graduate from UNB, and that she was smart as a whip and so obviously not happy with staying at home, her intellect stuck in neutral.

Not only would I rule the world, but marriage wasn’t really important, and boys less so, was the message.

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Well, I AM small!

 

I did my degree, went out to work, only to find out that I wasn’t particularly good at bedside nursing. I had chosen nursing because I knew I didn’t have the commitment to be a doctor. But nursing demanded odd hours and racing about and constant fear that I’d screwed up somewhere or that I would be asked to do something I had no idea how to do.

I got married. What the heck? I had absolutely no diagram about how to be married. I didn’t even know people who knew how to be married. Ergo, I ended up in the nursing scenario again, always afraid I was doing something wrong.

That’s okay, I thought. I’ll parent. I’ll be the BEST parent. I’ll BE INVOLVED, but not smothering, funny but not mean, perfect in every way. Well, my kids will tell you how that turned out. I was INVOLVED but a lot of parenting is simple boring drudge work, interspersed with those moments of glory that make you do it. There’s a reason babies smile at 6 weeks. I didn’t much like that job, either, though I do like my kids.

I moved to public health. Felt a bit more certain there. I’ve always been able to talk myself out of situations, so teaching about healthy habits came naturally. And then I learned I could talk myself INTO situations. Uh oh.

_12Every time I had one of these deep “whoa can’t do that” experiences, I stepped back, further into the introvert world. I felt like Tigger, wanting only ‘haycorns’ and then deciding he hated them.

I’m coming to realize that I am meant to lead a small life. One where successes are small, often almost invisible.

One where when I leave it, the obituary will likely be a three line one. “Mother of three. We have NO IDEA WHAT SHE DID WITH HER TIME. It’s possible we’ll miss her.”

But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe I should learn to settle in, be my little person, grab the joy I get from making people laugh or when they see my little critters or watch me make a fool out of myself. Maybe life is in the little things, an ear for a friend, a pair of socks for a cold kid, a smile for the bus driver, a warm ginger cookie like the ones I just baked for my sister.

Or maybe…..maybe….maybe I could just finish this book and…

The dreams of bigness die hard. Yes, they do.

PS: I did learn how to be good at boys, but too late, she cried, and waved her wooden leg….

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Last night I dreamed of blood…

2 11 2016

pyjamagirlcaseIt was one of those hyper-acute dreams, the ones that stay with you when you wake, the ones that play over in your head as you try to retrieve their inner details.

I love these dreams. I like trying to figure out what my brain was up to to create them, what they might mean, if one believes in those things. I try to be sensible and realize they are simply random sparkings of neurons, meaningless except in a “isn’t it a wonder what the brain can do” kind of way.

But then I remember my dad’s dream.

My dad was fine, healthy, happy, if a bit “well-nourished” as he joked about seeing in his medical record. His mother had recently passed away, and he was of course grieving her, but she was older and had been ill for some time. It hadn’t been a surprise, though he of course missed her deeply.

So, when he saw her in a dream, walking towards him, he was delighted. He called out, he raced toward her. She reached for him. As they got close, his sweet mother’s beautiful British face turned into that of a terrible hag, her hands into claws, her body into a skeleton. She grabbed for his neck, clawing at him as he pushed back in horror.

A few weeks later, he noticed huge lumps in his throat. He’d had them for awhile but now 10lymphoma-final-year-8-638they were too big to ignore. He was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma and given a death sentence. They treated him aggressively and he lived another ten years, but he nearly died a few times and his spine collapsed, and when the cancer returned there was nothing left the docs could do.

Before he passed away, he had a long period of bedrest and I was lucky enough to hang out with him and chat. I made it very clear that he was ON NO ACCOUNT to come and visit me with any such dire warnings, that I would prefer to go unknowing into my life challenges, thanks very much. I told my mum, too, but she doesn’t take orders well. I’m not convinced she wouldn’t figure out a workaround.

All in all, this makes me a bit freaked out about last night’s dream where Father Don, a priest AND my mother’s brother, walked my bleeding self around to see all the relatives. I was in pyjamas, and I wasn’t in pain, but all of my clothes were bloodstained, like I was having a period from years gone by. I saw figures of all of my extended family – my dear Uncle John and Aunt Colleen, Aunt Eileen (standing with her arms just so), Aunt Dorothy Ann (smiling, sad), other, less recognizable figures. I knew they were relations who were no longer alive. They all smiled at me, gently welcoming. No parents with claws, thank heavens, and it wasn’t scary, but…

Dashing to the online dream encyclopedia, I found ridiculous interpretations. Menstruation dreams can be either the relieving of stress, or the unburdening of self or in Islamic interpretations – (pah!) great evil. Priests likewise have a variety of meanings, depending on whether the interpreter liked priests. Blood? Relatives? Pyjamas? Therbf96bed1d413d194df6bf62c17468f52e is no help to be found there.
So I walk about today, vaguely unsettled, wondering…

And thinking, ah well, at least they were silk pyjamas.

(Doesn’t help that this is  All Soul’s Day, something I just thought of THIS INSTANT. Eeeks!)





Some people say these are the worst of times…

5 01 2015

Ah, Styx…..How I loved them, still do. Was mellowing out to music today while stabbing a felted mushroom (yes, my life is odd) and this came up on iTunes Shuffle.

I loved Styx in the day, though sometimes their heavy musicality, like that of the Alan Parson’s Project, overwhelmed my ears like too much Beethoven’s 9th. All wonderful things, all moving, all sometimes too demanding on a bubble pop day.

But the message of the song seems oddly apt these days of such violence and despair and sorrow. It seems every news item is about people behaving badly or stupidly, about our government in Canada acting like tinpot dictators, about the crazies just below us carrying weaponry when shopping with their toddlers or killing police or innocents in the street.

It is easy to give in to it all and give up. Like the song says, “The best of times, is when I’m alone with you…” – it’s easy to hide inside and mutter in your small groups about the outside, about the dangers. To shut it out with noise, or good books, or activities or each other. I’d love to have someone to spend the best of times with having some sweet cuddles or something to distract me from Mr. Harper for a moment or two. But I digress…;-)

It isn’t enough, is it? The hairy beasts are still outside the increasingly porous gates. Perhaps it’s time to try and recreate the paradise we once had…with each other, within ourselves, in our world.

“as long as we keep alive…The memories of paradise….”

I’m thinking that maybe we can get there again…we are smart enough, rich enough, connected enough that these COULD be the best of times…

Or if nothing else, we can sing madly along with songs of our youth and stab tiny animals out of wool…





Writing resistance, or maybe I need to do something else

20 11 2013

I spend a lot of time NOT writing.
A LOT.
It frustrates even me. I vowed to focus on writing from September to December and see what I could get done in that time period but I’m flagging already and it’s at least another 2 weeks to December.
My plan was to end up with the start of several things to revise, things I could work on in the gloomy months of January to March before springing springlike into the publishing world in April.
See, these plans are just not working.
When I write, and I get immersed in my little world, I’m amazed what comes out of my head. Some of it seems actually okay. Most of it needs heavy heavy revision.
But my resistance to getting started is growing by leaps and bounds.
It doesn’t help that I live surrounded by many many books I want to read, all of which are better written than I could do.
It doesn’t help that sitting for prolonged periods isn’t great for me (or anyone else), or that it usually sends me off to sleep, perchance to dream, but definitely not to type.
It also doesn’t help that the thought of all the fiddling around to get published doesn’t appeal. The query letters, the sending books around on visits, the waiting, the editing, the fussing. I don’t think I have the interest anymore.
I wish I did.
But it seems wasteful, sometimes, when there are many other things I want to do.
I know I can be a powerful writer. But perhaps there are other ways to use this. I’m writing for Amnesty again on December 10th, for example. I can and do write letters to the editor, comments to the CBC, letters to elected officials.
But the other stuff feels like dithering, and I’m boring myself. I sit at the computer to write, and lose focus almost immediately. I’d rather be exercising or rug hooking or doing anything that involved my body, rather than my head. Or immersing myself in the writing of others.
There’s so much still to learn and know.
But am I simply resisting what I should be doing?
If so, I’m getting pretty darn good at it.
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“We don’t need more writers! We need more readers!”

30 05 2012

Somewhere back in Nanowrimo land, I read a commentary about the piles of dreck being produced through the month. The quote above comes from that commentary, but I can’t find the reference this morning, peering as I am through the slits of eyes produced by profound weeping as I realize another dream is lost, down the drain. That writing dream. You know. THAT one.

I’ve produced a lot of that dreck. I know. People have ever so sanctimoniously, kindly, gently, and viciously told me so. (Just GET all those -ly words in one sentence! That takes skill, that does!)

I’ve been “working on writing”, interspersed with sessions of intense parenting, higher education, day jobs that consume my soul, and fighting the urge to nap, for the past 20 years or so. Should I succeed now, I’d likely kill whoever called me an overnight success. Wait, that’s a good idea for a plot…

And therein lies the rub. Like many people, especially the insufferable woman who sat beside me the other day, plots are a dime a dozen. At least in the idea stage. The stories, the ones that grip your heart and make you sink into an alternate reality – well, those are harder. For me, anyway. I imagine insufferable woman could just whip them off in a second, or so she tells me.

There are hundreds of books produced every year. Many of them are simply awful. (see: 50 Shades of Grey) Some of the really bad ones get made into movies, even, and their authors lie about and eat bon bons forevermore. This leads many of us to think that we, too, could wield that magic.

But like the lion in the Wizard of Oz would say, “Whadda they got that I haven’t got? Courage!” I somehow can’t get myself to offer my dreck to the wider world. I feel I should do better. So I paralyze and refuse to write and don’t. And, quite frankly, my skills get rustier and rustier.

So, a few tips for those who want to do this crazy thing (and by the way, my assembly of writing books is going up for sale on Kijiji in a moment).

1. Write. Yah, you knew this.

2. Learn to touch type. My mother never let me take this class as she thought I’d end up as a secretary or something. She didn’t see the time of keyboards. I still type fast, but my error rate is huge, and my hands get weary using only four fingers total. It wastes time, and frustrates my flow of thoughts.

3. Read. Write reviews of the books you read. This will make you look for the things you read that worked, the things you didn’t like, and, more importantly, will stick those things in your mind for when you write your own stuff.

4. Avoid writing courses. I’ve taken dozens of these. They either tell me what I already know, or decimate my confidence. Free ones are okay. I’ve paid thousands and am genuinely no further ahead. Read instead.

5. If you must take courses, pay attention, participate, suck the pith out of them. Squeeze them dry. Pester the teacher for additional help, especially if they’re good. Find kindred spirits in the class and form a reading/writing group for afterwards. This will be the most useful thing of all.

6. Get a group together to share your writing with. Make sure you are on the same level. This is tougher than you think, and it is terribly irritating to have someone ask you the meaning of words or tell you they haven’t read anything much since the Twilight series when you write historical fiction. Plus it is really really hard to critique really bad writing without being mean-sounding.

7. Read some more. TV or movie renditions of writing do NOT count. It’s not the same. Read widely, outside “your” genre. Well, except romance. Don’t read that if you don’t like it. It will just lead you to think you can write it, and good romance isn’t easy, either. It’s easy to shower scorn on things you don’t understand. I know. Bad romance (writing) isn’t something you want your kids to remember you for.

8. Buy books. Go to readings. Talk to authors. For me, going to the Bloody Words Conference – I plan to kiss their feet. I’ve tried to do what they do, and I can’t. I bow before them, trying to let my envy go and to embrace them with all my heart for the pleasure their books have brought me.

9. If you can, give up. It’s tough out there. It’s lonely. And it can be soul-destroying. After trying for so many years, I feel like a Hollywood starlet, who went west to become a movie star, tried and tried and got some bit parts, a little taste of possible glories, but never a big break. Now she’s old, tired, and wherever she goes, she can hear the whispering, “Of course, she never really WAS anyone…

10. If you can’t give it up, make sure you have other things to fall back on in times of duress. Friends help, but no one can patch the gaping hole in a heart when you’ve very nearly almost made art and have just missed. You need something else that deals with internal trauma. Work out, make something out of clay or cloth or wood or anything tactile that does not involve words. Physicality is key when you’ve been working so hard with the verbal mind. Go punch someone. Maybe the insufferable woman. That would be fun.

Try not to look pathetic.





Monkeyminding

29 04 2012

ImageMy brain is busy. I went to a workshop at the excellent Writer’s federation this week and learned I should rewrite my novel from the beginning to make it sing. I’m blanking out a bit with horror at the thought as I’ve over 80,000 words invested already and I feel sad about sending them to perdition, a bit afraid that they may be insulted and never return.

I remember a story from my childhood where all the letters talked and had personalities. I still remember the illustrations, but can’t remember the title anymore. I even tried to poach it for a high school essay, but I’m sure mine wasn’t as mentally sticky as I can’t remember it at all. What I do recall is the idea that words had a life of their own, filled with opinions and prejudices and preferences. I wonder how they feel about the animosity toward adverbs, for example. Are adverbs the embarrassing relatives of the word family? Do they tell inappropriate jokes and pick their teeth at the table?

In any case, I think about them ganging up on me in my sleep and telling me off for wasting them. It’s a scary thought. Plus my fingers are already tired thinking about it, and my computer is in the shop.  

But, it has to be done. I need to wrestle the novel to the ground and minute revisions aren’t doing it. 

Meanwhile, in another portion of my brain, I’m revisiting an excellent book launch and having for the first time a wee fantasy about having one of my own.

But then my brain slides over to my trip to Newfoundland, and chatters about that for a bit. Or spring calls from outside the window. And time skitters away.

The letters are mumbling, though. They want me to get at them. Time to stop dreaming and get to work.





Monkeyminding

29 04 2012

ImageMy brain is busy. I went to a workshop at the excellent Writer’s federation this week and learned I should rewrite my novel from the beginning to make it sing. I’m blanking out a bit with horror at the thought as I’ve over 80,000 words invested already and I feel sad about sending them to perdition, a bit afraid that they may be insulted and never return.

I remember a story from my childhood where all the letters talked and had personalities. I still remember the illustrations, but can’t remember the title anymore. I even tried to poach it for a high school essay, but I’m sure mine wasn’t as mentally sticky as I can’t remember it at all. What I do recall is the idea that words had a life of their own, filled with opinions and prejudices and preferences. I wonder how they feel about the animosity toward adverbs, for example. Are adverbs the embarrassing relatives of the word family? Do they tell inappropriate jokes and pick their teeth at the table?

In any case, I think about them ganging up on me in my sleep and telling me off for wasting them. It’s a scary thought. Plus my fingers are already tired thinking about it, and my computer is in the shop.  

But, it has to be done. I need to wrestle the novel to the ground and minute revisions aren’t doing it. 

Meanwhile, in another portion of my brain, I’m revisiting an excellent book launch and having for the first time a wee fantasy about having one of my own.

But then my brain slides over to my trip to Newfoundland, and chatters about that for a bit. Or spring calls from outside the window. And time skitters away.

The letters are mumbling, though. They want me to get at them. Time to stop dreaming and get to work.








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