Author: smarthu (Page 1 of 3)

Lessons Learned at the “Spa”

Went with my two grown daughters to a spa in Arizona. It was a spa that was once a “no alcohol, no carbs, no wine” spa. No fun.

We had fun though. And carbs. And caffeine. And wine. And walks and wildlife viewing and fun classes.

My favorite thing though was having the daughters with me for the weekend to see what issues and topics “bubble” up to the surface.

I thought I knew my daughters extremely well, but I learned things about them that I hadn’t known (and they learned things about me that I’ve kept from them–not huge things, but still.) that may have been the best takeaway from the trip. We were in a place of reflection and meditation.

My lesson learned; stand up for myself more–and for my children.

Looking back at the “spa experience,” I realized the “horse painting” experience was the one that sticks with me. On the way there, I had usual (for me) thoughts of “why are we doing this?” and “this is going to be weird or boring.” Four of us climbed into a van with a young cowboy who took us up a road “a piece” to his ranch stable where four horses awaited painting.

I sized up the horses when we climbed out of the van. Of the four, I thought I’d take any except the big Clydesdale horse with huge feet. When we stepped into the corral, the Clydesdale (named Bonnie) bounded up to me. The cowboy stated that, “sometimes the horse chooses the person.” I guess I was Bonnie’s person.

Older daughter chose a white and black paint (and she did the best paint-job). Younger daughter chose a buckskin that looked like a good “canvas.”

The forth “painter” tried to choose her horse, who kept running away from her. The cowboy (who obviously is also an amateur therapist), asked her how that made her feel. She answered that it was fine. He asked again if she felt rejected. Again, no, she was fine. She helped me paint my giant Clydesdale.

Then came the time to explain what we’d painted. Older daughter, who had a great design of adult and baby hand-prints representing our family, along with other designs, painted in the center of the horse, which “cowboy” said usually represents being centered.

Younger daughter said she painted what she thought the horse wanted. That’s enlightening. She’s a people-pleaser. Yes, that makes sense.

The shocker came when the fourth painter broke down when explaining that she was grieving her aunt’s death. She cried almost uncontrollably and the cowboy helped her along in her grief. She also said that her mother didn’t want to talk about it. Then, the horse that had run from her came up to her. It was an amazing animal-person moment, and cowboy said that horse was his most empathetic and now that she had let go her grief, the horse was ready to visit her.

I read somewhere that horses leave others in the herd alone in their grief; they don’t try to comfort one another.

Other things I learned is: I need to be much more open and much less secretive to them and others.

So, my goal for the rest of my life (as short or long as it may be) is to take down my walls of insecurity and long-time fear of scrutiny and rejection. Take down the wall is my new mantra. No shame. No blame. No fear.

Or, and I learned that I need to stretch much more (or at all). And, that I probably cannot hike for five miles. And, I’ll never give up sugar, caffeine, carbs or Wine.

Some Sadness

I’m generally an optimistic person (some, even my late mother, called me a Pollyanna), but it’s hard now with the seemingly swift changes in the news (Paul Simon’s words: there were incidents and accidents, hints and allegations).

I’m watching with sadness the George Floyd trial (you know the one, where one and maybe four cops caused the death of a black man); the sexual harassment allegations against almost every celeb; the racism allegations against many celebs and non-celebs alike. Now, the latest round of racial violence against Asians because of irrational accusations that they caused the Corona Virus pandemic.

What causes strange beliefs? What causes people to join cults and become irrational? What causes young people to commit suicide or commit atrocities against others? What causes the need for AR15s and other assault rifles? Is there a need for those for ordinary citizens?

Some of my sadness comes from living for the while that I’ve lived, having seen some of the things I’ve seen, having experienced some of the things I’ve experienced. Certainly, I can remember being harassed as a young woman employee, of flirting back with those in power because I believed it was the only power I had, of seeing gays and blacks harassed in most cruel ways (and, shamefully, looking the other way–thankful that this time, it was’nt me who was being harassed for being a young single mom, for daring to be a young woman trying to make a career for herself and her children).

I’ve heard people say there are degrees of harassment, degrees of cruelty. There should be no room for any of it, especially in America. I am trying each day to be a better person, and I think we can ask that of everyone.

Vaccinated!

My husband and I are both now fully vaccinated, but it feels strange, almost dangerous to think about going out into the world again after being safely nested inside our comfortable Denver home for a year.

I feel lucky and optimistic that scientists, the government and manufacturers were able to come up with a safe (and we hope effective) vaccine so quickly. There are questions, that scientists say there are answers for: why isn’t there an HIV vaccine yet after almost forty years?; why did this vaccine get developed so quickly?; what if another, worse pandemic come along (as is likely)?

For me, at least, it’s better not to borrow trouble and be thankful for what is, and go about life albeit more cautiously this time around. I’m thankful for every day of health and well-being.

Some Things I’ve Learned About Writing

  • Nobody wants to steal any of my ideas so I shouldn’t spend much time trying to protect them (unless I become famous for writing, and then that’s another story).
  • Nobody really wants to collaborate on a book with me (especially my husband, who is an author.)
  • I don’t really want to collaborate on a book with anyone (especially my husband, who is an author).
  • I’ll probably not get wealthy as an author—the odds are against it. I’ll be happy if I make it to the dreaded “mid-list” that many authors complain about. I’ll be happy with some “mad money.”
  • I can always wish though.
  • An author can get better each year if he or she pays attention to the craft of writing.
  • The Internet can be an incredible help—and and immense time-waster. It’s better to look up what you need and write on a computer that’s not attached with the Internet.
  • There is no right way to start. Some authors start with a plot idea or a character. I seem to come up with a title first. It’s the only thing that “comes” to me. If the title doesn’t go away, I run with it.
  • I’m a morning person. If you’re a morning person, write in the a.m. If you’re a night person, write at night.
  • There is no such thing as a muse. Some things comes damned close. Music that inspires you. Passages from favorite books. A good movie. You have to start and get it down and edit later. Maybe the “muse” will come with editing.
  • Be careful not to cross the line from muse to stealing ideas.
  • Take criticism, but don’t take it to heart. Be open to advice. Let the advice settle about a week before re-looking or rewriting.
  • Be Brave. It’s hard to put yourself out there.
  • Perservere.

Doing Things Badly

During Covid quarantine, I’ve struggled (like many others) with completing tasks, avoiding ADHD caused by too-accessible television and internet.

I also have the feeling of having too much time, instead of other times in my life where time was my most scarce commodity. I can do it later. I’ve got plenty of time. I’d rather do this now than what I started out doing.

One thing I noticed is that since I have more time, I want to take my time and do it “right.”

I like Ann Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird where she talks about writing (the title meaning that if you set out to create a bird book, you would do it bird by bird, and not all the birds at once). She also talks about the “shitty first draft” of things. Just get the draft out there and fix it later. Turns out that this can apply to baking, writing, painting, household chores–almost anything that requires a finished product. The thing is, if it’s not perfect, it’s still okay. Just edit it.

Writer and poet GK Chesteron said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

I’ve done many things badly, so I feel very accomplished.

Words

I’ve never lost my curiosity over words. Speech has obviously evolved over the ages (in every language), and in fact, we would be hard-pressed to recognize what people were saying if we went back to 17th Century England.

For instance, I remember having to memorize a poem by Robert Burns: “

“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”

Which translates today to : “Oh the gift that God could give us, to see ourselves as others see us.”

I’ve always liked that quote (and don’t know if it’s about reality or the gift of denial). But the bigger issue is about language and how it has changed.

So, when I’m texting to my kids and I realize that I’m shortening words and using shorthand like UR and K instead of “you are” and “okay.” Does it make grammar and punctuation moot? For instance, I criticize people for mixing up “you’re” and “your.” Does it matter in today’s world.

I’ll always thing that words matter, that it’s our primary way to communicate, that speech separates us from animals, and that speech can be art. Speech can also be a weapon, a peace-making tool, a gift and a curse.

Every week, I learn something new about language. Just this week, I learned that when I say: “You buried the lead,” I really mean “You buried the lede.” Who knew?

Squirrels

My DH and I joke about metaphorical “squirrels,” those distractions that keep us from things like writing, finishing tasks and staying on task.

One of our metaphorical squirrels is looking, feeding and watching literal squirrels.

We live in Denver, as does a large population of squirrels (called a “dray” or “scurry” of squirrels in collective names parlance). We enjoy putting out seed for the birds and also seeing the squirrels eat the left-over seed that hits the ground below the feeder. (I have also been known to put out sunflower seeds and other treats for the squirrels).

This is considered a “secret” hobby in my neighborhood, as there are two types of people: those who think squirrels are cute and adorable, and those who think they are vermin. (Okay, they are technically rodents with tails, but . . .)

We enjoy all kinds of wildlife (except possibly snakes and I’m deathly afraid of Mountain Lions), and so I consider this a guilty pleasure. I won’t brag about my squirrel-feeding on our Next Door site, my not even admit to it, and will continue feeding the squirrels.

Good Book: All Creatures, Great and Small (series 1-5) by James Harriott

Movies & Television

I confess to watching more television while in quarantine than before. I do have work to do; writing, housework, gardening, etc. Movies and book provide a comfort to me (not guilty, but sometimes guilty).

I currently ordered a couple of William Kreuger books (which I find a little heavy and so only read a bit a day). I ordered Anna Kavan’s book, ICE which is a bit of sci-fy. Of course, my ultimate guilty pleasure books are of the series mystery variety (which I happen to be “trying” to write these day–always learning from what I’ve read).

As for television, my favorites:

  • Good Girls (now on Netflix)
  • Resident Alien (Syfy channel) very funny (if you have a weird sense of humor)
  • Grace & Frankie (waiting for final season)
  • NCIS reruns from season 1/episode 1

Movies

  • The Sound of Metal (heartbreaking & very good story about a drummer who loses his hearing)
  • Contagion (very scary now, and is at least 10 years old)
  • Outbreak (also scary and old). Wait–why am I watching pandemic movies?
  • Bird Box (also scary and good)

I refuse to feel guilty about television and movies, however. I try to take every lesson about writing from the scripts, the actors (characters) and the settings and research.

Social Anxiety & the Writer

The term “Social Anxiety” is a relatively new one, and even though I’ve suffered through it for many many years, I’ve only recently come to terms with it.

Mine went beyond just being afraid to walk up to a person and say “Hello.” It changed and morphed over the years from being afraid to speak up in class (and developing what I now know is selective mutism), to being afraid to tell anything to my parents, to being afraid of friends, to being afraid of exchanging anything at the store for fear of judgement.

The causes for me are obvious (I was a teen mom and a target for bullying and scrutiny) and underlying extreme shyness.

But now, there are groups. There is medication. There is the ability to come out in the open.

Writing helps.

Short Little Span of Attention

I quote one of my favorite singers (Paul Simon):

“A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, woe my nights are so long”

I’ve probably read literally a hundred articles and/or books on productivity. Seems it all boils down to attention span I’ve come to believe that I may have some version of A.D.D. or something similar. Sometimes sitting down and devoting a couple hours to research or writing is like pulling teeth. Is that true for everyone? My husband seems to get lost in a project intently for hours. I seem to only do that if really pressed about a deadline. It’s obviously easier to read what others have written than write my own, but I want to have my own voice, to be heard. (Most people describe me as quiet–and I am–but I still want a voice as I’m not quiet inside). Though I am not sure how much difference productivity declarations make, here are some from various authors:

If you see distraction externally, you end up creating an internally distracted state.” — Tim Ferriss

 “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “ The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

 “Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” — Napoleon Hill

“Sigh.” Me

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