At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.
I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.
I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.
A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.
My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.
Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.
Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?
Recently I changed my primary work password to “GOODJuJu!!”
And I don’t care that you all know it now. What on earth would you do with it anyway? Break into my office, type it in and read my totally uninteresting emails? Go ahead, knock yourself out.
I think this is the best password I’ve ever come up with. Every time I type it in, I remind myself that my daily goal is to spread light in all my interactions with others. Not like I achieve that goal on the regular. But I try nevertheless.
Since I’ve shared my work password, it makes sense to follow the thread of spilling secrets. Tell you about the stuff that I’ve been doing to gain clarity for myself as an ambitious and creative writer.
Don’t get too excited. It’s all really just baby steps. But I think they still count for something.
First secret: I partook in David Sedaris’ Master Class online for Storytelling and Humor. Truth be told, I signed up for this class because of the “storytelling and humor” part-not so much for David Sedaris. I can’t say that I don’t like him, I do; it’s just that I knew of him but hadn’t read anything he has written. Still haven’t, actually.
Signing up for this class was something I did to help me learn in more detail how I can improve my creative writing. My ability to tell humorous stories that people can relate to and appreciate. It was a purely selfish investment that I decided to make in myself. And I have no regrets.
I had have great interest in interacting with the “community” within this online class. I’ve introduced myself, entered a piece of my writing in a contest even. The prize in this contest is David’s feedback on your piece. I think it’s safe for me to assume that I’m not going to win. And this is not me feeling sorry for myself or me being fake humble. My life is too good and blessed for that shit.
I’m not a great writer. I might be, someday. Or not. Either way, the joy writing gives me will not be overtaken by feelings of self-doubt about my ability to grow my readership on this blog or elsewhere.
I would estimate that it took me 3 hours, within the span of 5 days, to decide which piece I should enter for this contest. That’s how I found “Grammerly”, because in order for my piece to be accepted for consideration, it had to be under 600 words.
“Grammerly” also informed me that my piece was at an 11th to 12th grade level. So clearly, there’s room for improvement.
After doing a bit of editing on the piece I chose, I gave it a couple of days, then went back in to see the one comment made on my piece. It was “I feel like there’s too much information in this piece. I’d like to see it pared down to it’s bare bones”. He was spot on. I veer into the rabbit hole of verbosity in both my speech and my writing.
Whether or not I go back in, make some major edits and re-submit is up in the air. I honestly don’t know if that’s even allowed or appropriate. Or maybe it’s expected?
For now, though, I just want to share what struck me most from being a student of this class. The following is taken directly from the notes I made to myself as I participated in this class and worked through the accompanying workbook.
David’s “work spaces”. Loved the imagery. Made me think that I could write about my ideal work space. Like a “she shed” type deal.
Tuning into your surroundings will open you up to moments that could become stories and the parts of your world that belong in your writing.
“I don’t like to write about people I don’t like”. I concur, David. Neither do I. So I won’t. Period. Hopefully this declaration doesn’t come and bite me in the ass later.
David has a conversation with every person in line at his book signings. He also writes thank you letters. He’s such a nice boy.
Take incidents and stitch them together for a story. I love the creative reference of stitching. Also, following threads. And rabbit holes.
Paint a mental picture in a readers head. Go to readings?? David said he learned a lot from doing this. A lot about what not to do, that is.
Now onto my second secret (or is it my third? That’s subjective, I suppose): During the time I was taking this class, I received an email announcing spring 2020 dates for the Listen to Your Mother shows.
Let me back up for a sec: I first heard about this annual event in 2016 from a local-ish “mommy” blogger named Stephanie. Essentially, LTYM is a franchise that is locally produced in various cities in the U.S. Primarily women get up on a stage and read original pieces on the theme of “Motherhood”. A percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales goes to charity.
I instantly loved this whole concept. The idea of others sharing their personal stories about motherhood, a topic dear to my heart and which I have much to say about, really intrigues me. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, someway, somehow.
So, with David encouraging me to do readings, I started considering applying to be part of the cast. I congratulated myself recently when I realized that I could simply click on the “word cloud” I have featured on my blog’s front page and read all the posts I have written on one particular topic.
But then after reading the few posts I have published that featured “Motherhood” and then proceeded to view video clips of past LTYM speakers, I was overcome with self-doubt. I mean, if this is is all I’ve got to offer and these are examples of my potential “competition” why the hell should I proceed?
Now is the part of this post where you might expect me to say something along the lines of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Both of which are 100% true.
However, while I’m not closing the door to auditioning for LTYM, I’m also not necessarily doing it this year. At least not with any of the pieces about motherhood I have published on this blog.
I think it’d be wise to heed David’s advice: attend readings. For me, it’ll be the LTYM show this spring. See what it’s like. Take notes. Make some connections.
I’m just going to jump right in with the “Right Now” part.
Anyone who read my last blog post knows that our youngest kiddo moved in with Hubs and I recently. With their cat in tow. In my almost 53 years (yes, my birthday is just literally around the corner), I have never shared my living space with such a creature.
Despite my initial misgivings (potential allergies, Radar maiming poor little kitty in a clumsy attempt to play with him, the smell), it isn’t so bad having him around.
I haven’t detected any majorly offensive odors yet. Not sneezing my head off or scratching my already dry (thanks Colorado) skin. Radar hasn’t inflicted any injuries on him. Yet anyway.
It’s been entertaining as hell watching Karl the cat and Radar interact with each other. At this point, I’d say they are solid “frenemies”. Like cool with being within a foot of each other. They are establishing their personal boundaries (Karl seems to have a good deal more of them, but apparently that’s cats for you). One of these days, who knows when, I envision there will be long enough a moment to snap a picture of the two of them together. When that happens, I’ll be sure to share it on this here blog.
For now, here’s a sweet pic of Karl I recently took:
As far as our other new roomie goes, things are going well. It’s been nice to have another human around to hang with. One who shares my love of quirky, colorful, fem-positive, musical theater type movies and shows. One who provides me with original art for my blog (featured at the end of this post). One with plenty of new, fresh ideas of things to do and places to go.
Now, kiddo is hard at work searching for gainful employment. Which means that this arrangement is temporary-ish. So I’m going to appreciate their lively presence in my daily life as much as I can between now and the time when they fly out of the coop again and into their own place. Which, if I have my way, will be a less than 10 minute drive from us.
Well, as you can see, I am writing. Feeling squishy about it though. I have three potentially legit blog posts in my draft folder. Just haven’t felt compelled to get back to them to make them publishable. I will, I know. Just not today.
What I’m tempted to write about is a book I recently finished: The Four Agreements. If I did tell you about it, I’d say this: it gives one a lot to think about. Like, a whole lot. About how one moves through the world as a human. How essentially we are programmed to believe stuff about ourselves and the world we inhabit based on what our parental figures told us. And how all of that is a lie. Not sure I am behind that particular concept. Not 100% anyway.
Okay, so I’m going to just get on with it and give into my temptation for a hot second or two.
There are, according to the author (Don Miguel Ruiz), 4 agreements one should live by in order to have a truly happy life. They are ginormous agreements and if you overthink them (which of course I have been doing), your head might explode.
First agreement: Be impeccable with your word. I take this to mean “say what you mean and mean what you say”. That may be a gross simplification of this agreement, to be sure; going deeper it’s also about not gossiping with others about others. That’s a tough one, right?
Not because I intentionally gossip. I’m not a total monster.
It’s just that when someone you know, like, and trust, starts sharing their beefs about another someone you know, but don’t like, and don’t trust, it’s hard to resist joining in. To get sucked into the rabbit hole.
I tell myself that I’m “just venting”, and for a short bit of time I enjoy the camaraderie. I feel that sense of self-satisfaction that comes with the realization that my negative opinion of the one we are bitching about is shared with others. Which I always see in hindsight is not useful or helpful. Certainly not for the target of the gossip session. And not for those of us gossipers. It doesn’t move anything forward in a positive direction in any way.
I guess I just need to figure out how to get myself out of situations where active participation in gossiping is tempting me. That, I believe, is where the challenge lies. Because, ultimately, I don’t want to wind up as the one being gossiped about because I chose not to participate.
That leads me to consider one of the other 4 agreements, which is this: Don’t take things personally. I guess where I could take that in the scenario where I’m the odd one out, turning on my heel and marching away once the gossiping starts, is that what I assume those people have to say about me not engaging in the gossip is on them. Not on me. It has no reflection on me whatsoever.
Sorry for the “psychobabble” folks. That was not my intention when I began writing this post. It’s just where it went. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to say about this mind trip of a book. There are, after all, 2 more agreements I didn’t even touch on.
So there you have it. My life is changing and my attitude towards it is evolving. I think all I can really do is just write through it.
Man, I love myself a good acronym. Almost as much as a finely crafted mantronym (for those of you new to this blog, that’s a mantra that presents as an acronym).
The first time I saw “ISO” it was on a work email. One of the other social workers was “ISO” something or other. Probably a way to get rid of bed bugs, because that is the type of shit we had to help our clients with on a disturbingly regular basis. I had to read the body of the email before I understood that “ISO” was “in search of”.
My personal theory is that we are all “ISO” pretty much all the time. It might be a lost sock or cell phone. It might be recommendations for a dog walker. It might be for the best cheesecake recipe. Or it might be something deeper; like meaning, purpose, or peace. Or maybe a little bit of all of the above and more.
This song comes to mind as I’m writing this. I happened to hear a truly awesome version of it recently as I was tooling around in my CRV. Here it is:
I have gratitude for the fact that in this life I have found what I was looking for: a happy marriage, a place to call home, two awesome adult children, a grandson, a dog, and a career that have all brought me a lot of happiness.
But there’s still more I’m ISO.
What might that be? Well, a whole bunch of things honestly. But what it boils down to more than anything is balance.
Balance between writing/doing/connecting is what I’m searching for in 2020. Maybe I should christen 2020 as my year of Clarity.I need to avoid the “overwhelm” and remain rooted in the present, in my writing life, professional life, and personal life.
One of the major take-aways for me from 2019 is that working is highly important to me. Working at my part time job running the food bank. Working on my writing; improving my blogging skills. Working on strengthening the connections I have with the people I love and making new connections with those people I have yet to meet. I like staying busy, moving forward, accomplishing things.
What I know for sure about 2020 is that it’s incumbent upon me to work even harder that I did in 2019. Up my game at work. Find ways to improve myself professionally. So that I can contribute more to the team, to our clients, to our mission.
Another thing I know for sure about 2020 is that I will need to hyper-focus on my writing via this blog (and otherwise, but that is currently a batch of baby WIPS that will need some careful coaxing to show themselves to the world).
Suffice it to say: I have much to say about a variety of things-from my personal history, my current reality and the (hopefully) fabulous future. I have stories to tell. I have more to say about some of the topics I brought up on this blog in 2019. I have more to do and say in and about the present. And I have a freaking ton to say about the future.
While all of the above is true and right and good for me personally, I recognize that I can’t blow off taking care of myself. Because in real day to day life of the year 2020, there’s gonna be obstacles. Some I am fully cognizant of and others will be new and uninvited. So while I don’t anticipate becoming a self-care guru (because really, we have so many of them we can refer to on the internets and in real life if we are so fortunate), behind the scenes of this here blog, I will be aiming to practice a healthy amount of it.
I sincerely hope you stay tuned.
But first, please indulge me and answer this question in the comments:
What are you ISO in 2020? This particularly curious mind would love to know.
I’m such a weirdo. I like to think the other weirdos out here in the blogosphere have received that memo by now. I like to think I’m in good company.
But just in case, let me tell you about my guiding acronym mantronym (because it’s not just a mere acronym, it’s also my mantra). The one that has been stuck in my head probably since I started blogging. The one that suits me best. The one that speaks to me. The one that repeats itself in my head as I write like an earworm.
That mantronym is KISS.
Traditionally, it stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. But for me, it stands for Keep It Simple Sister. Because no good can come from me calling myself stupid. I believed the lie that I was stupid for far too long and now I’m 52 and the fucks I gave in the past are (mostly) history. I’ve evolved.
Keep it Simple Sister is a kind yet firm way to remind myself to not be verbose when I’m writing. Because while I am a bonafide spaz, I don’t think my readers need to be pounded in the head with it when they read my posts. You all have lives, right? Responsibilities. Schedules. Important shit to do. Me getting to the fucking point already in my blog posts is essentially my way of recognizing and respecting that.
But very possibly the best thing about my beloved acronym of KISS is how darn versatile it is. While “Keep It Simple Sister” will forever be the guiding principle as I write my blog posts (and live my life), there’s often alternate versions of this mantronym at play within them.
For instance, “Keep It Specific Sister”. This one came to me while I was using my wicked crafting skills creative energy to put together my vision board. I firmly believe that having a physical picture of what specific things or experiences you want in your life increases the chances of it becoming reality. For instance, instead of affixing a picture of, say, a wine bottle or grapes to my vision board, I affixed a picture of Napa Valley because that is a place I very much wish to visit with Hubs, asap. Seeing it every day keeps it fresh in my mind, which is good because, I am 52.
Then there’s “Keep It Sincere Sister”. Bottom line-I’m just going to be me. I will continue to write (and breathe) with my heart in the right place. Which happens to be on my sleeve.
I also enjoy the “Keep It Sassy Sister” version of KISS. Because. THIS.
A highly important version of my beloved KISS is “Keep It Surprising Sister”, because that is what I’m aiming for. I want to surprise you, dear readers, as well as myself. But in an interesting and smart way of course. In a brave and new way. A meaningful way.
A more recent version of KISS that I seek to inject into each blog post is “Keep It Sincere, Seeker”. Because while what I write comes from my heart, I’m also very much a seeker. A student who’s learning and growing as a blogger and a human. I’m eager to continue that, with the knowledge that I don’t know what I don’t know. I read lots of other blogs for tips and tricks as well as for inspiration. It keeps me engaged in the whole process. And I know that by continuing this practice, I am likely to keep improving as a blogger.
Any of you other fellow weirdos have a mantronym? Or a mantra? Or a guiding acronym? Or does “KISS” resonate with you? Perhaps you have other suggestions for what “KISS” could stand for? I’d love to read any commentary you have about this 🙂
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Later tonight my spawn and spawn’s spawn will be here in my house. That is my focus. My priority. I am so full of joy that we will all be together for this holiday weekend. I am one flipping fortunate broad.
But first I shall blog.
I think it’s important to count our blessings, whatever they may be. This past Sunday at church, our friend who led the children’s message read a book aloud about thankfulness. It ended with the line “We are not thankful because we are happy. We are happy because we are thankful”. Simple and true. Here’s just a few examples of what I am thankful for in the here and now:
The comforts of my Colorado home
My smart, beautiful, capable and kind adult kids
Hubs and our wonderful grandson
My sense of humor. It gets me through a lot. This commercial is SO me.
Meaningful work. In my job, I get to procure nutritious and delicious food for aging adults. And give it to them. What a joy this is for me.
Writing my blog. I think back to my much younger self knowing it would blow her mind if she knew then that once she turned 50, she’d be pouring out her feelings, thoughts, and dreams out into the universe via a home computer. And that people would actually choose to read it.
That these two were my parents. This will be our first holiday season with both of them gone. It is so bittersweet for me. I’m grateful they are no longer suffering and beyond grateful for all they taught me and the love they gave.
Life is good! God is good all the time!
Please join with me in the spirit of Thanksgiving and share pics of what you are thankful for in the comments!
I’m feeling experimental with my writing these days. Like I want to see what I can get away with; but not in a naughty way. Not in a way that’s going to get me arrested or shunned in the blogosphere. I just want to put something out there into the universe that surprises some people but resonates with others. #Goals, right?
I’m also feeling some serious writing angst these days. At the same time, I’ve been writing a whole lot. Like every chance I get. While I know this is a good thing, it’s left me feeling anxious. Like a hot mess. Because there’s so much I want to say and I want to put it out there on this blog in just the right way.
The indecision within me about what to finish and publish is really messing with me right now.
The only right thing for me to do, because I’m anal about consistency when it comes to my blog is to just Cut. It. Out. And publish something.
So off I go.
Proof of my anal retentiveness as it relates to this blog of mine: An excerpt from my “planning” draft folder (is this a thing for you too?) from 2018.
Review both current WIPs. Decide quickly if either is worthy of being published on Wednesday morning. Morning, dear. If not, don’t sweat it. It’s the small stuff, as cliche as that sounds. But it’s almost completely true. Then just do your best to use this Chromebook during the vacay. Whenever the moment strikes. And maybe the moment won’t strike. It will by 5/28 though. So at most you’ve skipped one week of posting. Don’t get your undies in a bunch over this. Yes, that did remind me that I need new undies as a matter of fact.
Items to look for while on vacation:
Also, Amanda’s birthday presents.
Now back to the current moment: In keeping with the thread of this loopy post from the indecisive, high strung hot mess that I am right now, I’m going to just copy and paste some of the random thoughts I’ve been expressing in various draft folders of this blog and call it a day. I’m going to re-type a few random thoughts I captured in various draft folders and call it a day (I can at least make the effort to make it look nice, right?).
Maybe that seems lazy to you. Maybe it seems crazy to me. Maybe it’s a combination of both. I dunno. But I’m going to do it nonetheless.
In no particular order whatsoever, I give you Rhonda’s random writing thoughts found within the vaults of my blog:
Notions or Quotes that I’m fond of:
You get what you give.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
This too shall pass.
“The most effective way to do it, is to just do it” Amelia Earhart. That resonates for me writing wise. That’s what I’m doing right now actually, so there.
I’m really curious about something. Well, many things really. But today I’m thinking about how I read or heard somewhere that it takes 7 days (or two weeks or six years?) to form a new habit. It’s actually 66 days. Ughh! Which, from today, is 12/25-Christmas Day!
The new habit I am going to start to form in earnest as of today is writing first thing in the morning. I like to say I do that now, but that’s not true. It’s writing before I check the forecast, read the UCC Daily Devotional, check Facebook. It’ll be an experiment. And just for fun, I think I’ll add in a new habit of writing every night too. Just for a little bit. 15 minutes even. The more I write, the more I have to publish. The more I publish, the more likely it is that I will get the attention I’m looking for.
Current moment commentary: I have stuck to this. That’s why there’s so much content within my draft folders now. And also why I’m so damn indecisive today about what to publish.
One last snippet from my draft folders:
Right now, I am so tired. Need to get ready for bed. Yet need to capture a few thoughts. Random though they may be. K.I.S.S. It’s mostly Keep. It. Specific. Sister. But it can vary. Mantras, phrases, acronyms, names are all very important to me as a writer. Who am I writing for? Who do I actually want to appreciate my writing? To benefit from it in some small but positive way? I want to make an impact. Push someone else forward so they can push another person forward and so on and so forth. Spread good vibes. Good juju. Good karma.
Okay, now I suppose it’s time to conclude this post. Thanks for sticking with me, people (am I being a tad presumptuous? Probably.)
My aim for my next post is to focus on one topic, or one general idea. I promise!