Want to Run Away?

One day last year I took out the garbage and wanted to just keep going. I thought I was not made for this mountain of housework and life with a chronically ill husband. How can a unicorn be expected to work like a mule? (to paraphrase a folk song.)

I wanted to run away, because my life was more than I bargained for. (Yes, I know, there are many people, perhaps the majority of the world, with problems far worse than mine, so if you’re thinking, why should she complain? You’re right. Most days I have gratitude up the wazoo. But this is my blog and others can chronicle their challenges and joys on their blogs. And I will read them and like them and understand. So, do not judge.)

What saves me from flying away and keeps me tethered to the homefront is my three awesome teen kids and my unbelievable network of friends. I don’t know how people have a chronically ill spouse without energetic kids and lovely friends to distract them from the loss and grief in this shifting sand marriage. Here are other things that keep me going:

  • Art: making art and appreciating art
  • Travel
  • Having parties
  • My biz, Boot Camp For Writers
  • My church community
  • Working out
Anne Tyler’s novels are so good!

I imagine every mother and wife has these days when she wants to run away. A while ago, I read this novel, Ladder of Years by the genius Anne Tyler. A middle-aged mom disappears from the beach and starts a new life in a little town as a secretary. I think of that character and how lonely (yet delicious) she found her life alone.

When my friend, J. and I went running this morning, we talked about this — how happiness requires work. It is not easy. It is not a given. But we are compelled to find happiness, despite life’s challenges. Among reasons to find joy, I find happiness in contemporary literature.

Novels save me. They allow me to escape. I can run away, but still be back in time to take out the garbage. Joy!

History Repeats Itself

Everything is fine. But I am having a slightly depressing day. I don’t want to go into any of the details, but suffice it to say, I have been here before. (My Kids Can Be Mean to Me.)

There are legit reasons why I feel unhappy and unsatisfied in my home life. I remind myself that I am feeling this way today, not every day. Just today.

I think that when I worked full time, I could submerge my difficulties at home into successes at work. I got good at compartmentalizing. That was one of my keys to success.

And, in a way, I’ve had part-time work this week — going to the movies. I have seen three movies and one play in five days. Last night, at the Public, I saw Sorry by Richard Nelson. The story was about four adult siblings on Election Day putting their demented uncle in a home. Really good.

Today, I saw Cloud Atlas. It was a trip. Set in six different time periods, the characters return as descendants from an earlier time or, maybe, as reincarnated souls. They are marked with a shooting star tattoo.

Cloud Atlas, based on the book by David Mitchell, reminded me that our lives are interwoven, past hurts are revisited. The people in power corrupt and exploit those in their care. When consumerism and greed is the value upon which a society is based, take heed. Yet kindness in the extreme can heal the wounded souls and societies.

So going to the movies this week has left me with lofty thoughts. I put my grievances aside. For today. Just today.

I probably should go to therapy instead of the movies. Yet I find my way of coping entertaining.

I heart unemployment!

2 Great New Movies about Alcoholics

Just in time for the holidays, there are two awesome new films about addiction and alcoholism. I just saw Smashed and Flight. Both of these films plot the journey from stupor to sober. They show how fun it is to drink and how crazy the consequences of that night of fun can be.

The acting in both of these films is awesome. Denzel Washington is a genius. I never tire of watching him. The man is unafraid to take his emotions to the edge. (Love that in a man!)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed is playful, lovable, out of control and fricken’ scary. And you feel scared for her. You feel like one her kindergarten students, asking yourself, “Is she okay?” And then you think, “Oh, whatever. She’s funny!”

I love a subgenre of movies — movies, I dub, learning how to love again. As someone who’s loved my share of alcoholics, I can attest to the wild ride of fun and despair in loving an alcoholic (or, I imagine, in being one).

Overcoming the disease of alcoholism is a compelling story line — after the slide into despair comes the crawl into a state of grace.

Of course there are other great movies about alcoholism, like Leaving Las Vegas or Clean and Sober. I loved Clean and Sober because the whole second part of the plot revolved around the Michael Keaton character’s obsession as he substituted his addiction to cocaine to his attachment to his girlfriend.

If, like me, you can identify with the life of a codependent, attached to another person’s dysfunction, these are good holiday movies for you. Both films left me shaken and stirred, just in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, when I can toast these two new movies. I recommend that you do too. Make yours a double (feature) and take it neat with a twist.

Writing Prompt

At our lunchtime Wednesday Writers group, Rashida Craddock led us on a hilarious exercise. She passed out a list of 26 strange words like cabotage, quire, tittynope, and xertz. And she told us to write a story of one person explaining how to use the word correctly to a child. Even though we didn’t know what the words meant, we were to write as if we did. She gave us 10 minutes.

Here’s a little story I wrote with my word, winklepicker.

“Oh, little one, a winklepicker is not for you. That’s a grown-up word for what grown-ups eat when they’re having their cocktails on the terrace. They have pickles, cheese, crackers, stuffed mushrooms, winklepickers!”

“But Grammy! I saw a mermaid on the terrace when you were having cocktails.”

“Oh, little one, cocktail time is magical. I have seen my share of mermaids during cocktail time too.”

Yes, little one, also known as Juliet, had seen the mermaid. And Brownie, the mermaid, had seen Juliet many times. She’d seen her on the rope swinging in the Elm tree, kicking her legs and climbing high.

Brownie was lost and had to get back to her school. And she believed that the girl could help her return to her school of fish.

I’ve been telling these girls bedtime stories about Juliet and Brownie their whole lives. Made up bedtime stories are the best.

“Now, you run along. Go find your mermaids, your leprechauns, your fairies,” said Granny. “I’m in need of a sleep fairy myself. I’ve been so busy writing invitations to our next cocktail party. And by sleep fairy, I mean a frighteningly delicious mix of champagne, cranberry, and a splash of Kir.”

Juliet slunk away while Grammy tinkled with the ice. Juliet sat on the window seat in the library and looked out the window…. (there’s more but I’ll stop there with my bedtime story.)

I was so happy to be with my lunchtime writing community. I hadn’t been there in two months, since I left the day job. We are such an amazing group of creative women. Don’t believe me? Check out Rashida’s art blog.

How to Start a Biz

When I was little, I wanted to be an actress and a writer. But I always knew I would be a teacher. I had a hobby of making worksheets for my little sister and trying to teach her French. I was like that. I saw learning for the sake of learning as a life-long hobby.

Since I left my day job two months ago, I have learned a lot. Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Pursue your passion. If you like doing your biz, then people will like being around you when you’re doing it. Happiness is contagious. People in your sphere feel permission to pursue their passion when you pursue yours. That’s part of life’s purpose: to provide a space for people to be authentic.
  • Have accountability buddies. My buddies are my brother Brendan, my coach Mandy, my biz partner Kelly, my ex-colleague Hal, and my web developer Felicity. My experience hosting the writing weekend in the Adirondacks showed me how awesome and important it was to have empathetic and smart people in my orbit. I could lean on them, admit my doubts, and be encouraged to persevere.
  • Stay social. I need to spend solitary time to blog and to prep for teaching. I imagine every start up can be lonely. So, I am joining some MeetUps, going out to lunch with friends, staying social.
  • Wear jeans. For ten years, I dressed in business clothing almost every single working day. Enough already! I still put on a nice outfit when I teach or go out to lunch, but I am happy that every day is casual Friday.
  • my city block in the morning

    Get up and out. I have to get up and out by 8 am every day. If all I do is walk the kids to the bus stop two blocks away at 7:40 am and come right back home, that’s fine. My other favorite destination is a nearby 7:30 am meditation class. And, of course, I love the little French bistro, Margot Patisserie, for coffee and a croissant. The downside to my early mornings, I wake by 6:20, is that by 10 pm, I am wiped out and crabby and yelling at the kids, “Get to bed!”

I wrote this blog post, inspired by Don Miller’s Storyline. I especially like Miller’s advice to Be Patient. That’s not always easy, but I think it’s always worth it.

It reminds me of Rilke’s advice to:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

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A Photo A Day

Just about every day I have posted a photo on Facebook or on Instagram. A year later, I’m not sure whether I’m going to stay with my #photoaday habit.

But I have learned a lot. And I offer these guidelines, inspired from a workshop given years ago by my brilliant colleague, Paul Jeffrey. Check out Paul’s blog at Global Lens to see how a pro does it.

  • Get close.
  • Get far.
  • Get personal.
  • Get simple.
  • Get high.
  • Get low.
  • Get light.
  • Get dark.

I find nothing more beautiful than an extreme close up of a flower. However, eyes cannot feast on a stamen every single day. So I try to change my perspective.

The Jersey Shore. Give me any shot of water any day and I’ll be happy.

Here are some random examples from the last year.

After I cleaned my NYC kitchen, I posted a picture proudly. People are naturally voyeurs and like a peek into other people’s lives (and kitchens).
What’s ordinary for some people is extraordinary for others. (When I shot this photo, my friend was mortified. she wanted me to be more discreet with my iphone!) Thus, the blur.
Get far. Skylines always make me feel melancholy. (photo credz to my son. I was driving, so I told him, “Hey, take a picture.”)
I find a close up of a flower with an interesting background relaxing.
And when looking for a subject to shoot, I just have to turn around and there are my bored kids. (I shot this at the Easter Parade.)

Secrets of a Freelance Writer

the view from my old office, yesterday.

During yesterday’s long lunch with Hal, he mentioned casually, “You should be making about $2,500 a week freelancing.” Gulp. I reminded him that unemployment pays $405 a week. Next to my computer sits a book from my sister a few Christmases ago: Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $85,000 a Year by Robert W. Bly.

Since that 2nd edition, the third edition’s out. A potential freelancer’s pay’s shot up to $100,000 a year. Okay, great, let me get going.

I cracked open the book, looking to get on that $2,500/per week thing. Here are some tips (based on Bly’s book):

  • manage time well
  • be concise
  • get to the point
  • keep the client satisfied

All good. And here are some of my tips:

  • let go of the guilt for asking for any pay at all
  • make your promotional material pretty (like website, biz cards)
  • turn it on time
  • network well
  • give clients more than they asked for

I added that first bullet point, because I realize I have guilt for making money and guilt for not making money. (In yesterday’s post, I admitted to feelings of guilt for indulging in any activities that please myself only and do not please others.) Thus, I have to let go of all guilt, even about gilt!

I am letting go of my excuses for not pursuing the almighty dollar. Yes, yes, I was born a girl, raised Catholic, worked for a Christian group. I have believed (even unconsciously) that money was the father’s job. That the pursuit of money made me selfish or materialistic. That other people had greater need than me so let the poor suckers have my money. That I am artist so I must suffer and live in poverty.

Be direct and unemotional. This book advises you not to make the same mistakes she did.  I love and relate to her honesty.

None of this is true. And I felt affirmed in my quest for asking for top dollar after reading Mika Brzezinski’s book, Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth. Mika faced and overcame the same problems I have with money. Her advice is:

  • be yourself
  • sponsor or mentor one another
  • stay matter of fact (don’t get emotional, apologetic)
  • I should have told Hal what I really think about making money. Money is just energy. To make more of it, just insert yourself into the energy’s flow. I buy that.
  • And I will get on it, right after I finish reading another book. And blogging.