Stressed and blessed
encouraged and discouraged
he’s riding the waves of the day
Angry and numb
frustrated and feeling dumb
she’s riding the waves of the day
cascading and rising
falling and sliding
the waves lift you up and
take you under
man and woman
no matter skin or order
all of us ride the waves of the day
Edgy dreams undermine my rest even while I sleep.
Sometimes they seem malicious,
but they help restore balance and serenity.
More frequently, they’re insane, causing me concern about my mental health,
although sometimes, they’re not remembered, listing in the gray of my thinking’s edge
like shipwrecks from other times.
Ah, sweet comfort. I’m back in the writing groove again.
Thinking about it as I made coffee this morning, I recognized how fiction writing every day helps me be more mindful. To understand characters’ motivation and behavior, I look to myself and other people that I know. I think about what I’ve done and what drives me, along with my inherent contradictions, and search for understanding of what I do, and why. And I do the same with other people, and the characters that I encounter in novels, short stories, movies, and television shows. All that is so that I can create richer characters and tell better stories.
Going through that thinking exercise as the darkness swept through me this week, I saw how my daily writing provides me structure and goals. Those structures and goals give my life meaning. So when I flail through the darkness and don’t want to write, my structure comes apart.
It isn’t just about feeding and satisfying the muses, telling stories, or pursuing goals of writing novels and becoming published. My writing is a tangible part of who I am. When I can’t write, I feel incomplete and adrift. I feel like I’m not me.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
I’m bouncing along the spectrum this week, sliding from hopeless negativity into enthusiastic, boundless optimism.
I know there’s a sweet spot there. Just can’t seem to find that balance.
That’s not overly surprising, and I don’t knowingly let myself fixate on it. ‘Knowingly’ is key, because my mind has created traps that I fall into without realizing, following worn paths that I should avoid, except they’re so damn easy to follow. Do you write fiction or pursue goals and dreams? If so, you might understand what I mean when I refer to these dark, weary paths.
I don’t know all the nuances that trigger my spectrum slides. I have ideas and insights into that process. When I win writing battles, my spirits soar toward the positive end. Good food, a good time, and a surprising compliment can take me there, too. Struggling with writing decisions, events that seem beyond my control, and simple frustration can drag me down into sour, doleful depths.
I know those things. Unseen health issues affect me with sneak attacks. Or, are they health issues? Maybe they’re not. I note, I feel off, and ask myself, what’s going on? Is it too little sleep, something I ate, part of the aging process, the first symptoms of a disease, or intellectual activities affecting my emotional activities affecting my physical activities affecting my spiritual activities affecting my intellectual activities?
Yes, that circle exists. It’s more complex than those few arcs described. That’s the spectrum. It’s not an orderly, linear line, but a circle, perhaps even a mobius. I think of it as a spectrum on a circle. Abstract visualization is one of my strengths, so I turn to it to help me think through things.
Being aware of the circle’s existence, like the monster in the dark, is helpful. Dreams can sometimes help, but last night’s dreams about aliens and seeking understanding seemed to highlight my morass rather than illuminating a way through it. Bummer. Fortunately, finding a satisfying resolution to whatever artistic-writing-intellectual problem is challenging me helps as well.
Today, after dwelling on the dreams during my morning coffee, I did find a satisfying approach to resolving the problem (which, yes, was of a writing nature), feeding my positive energy. It came while I dawdled, putting aside my normal routine to read some fiction and goof off, rather than to go out to walk and write. After just a few pages of distracting my brain with another’s fiction, my sub-conscious announced, aha, and an idea was floated. The solution isn’t fully formed, but has enough substance that I can grasp and shape it into something more and move myself forward.
Knowing this minutiae about myself is helpful to coping with its repercussions and trying to contain it. It’s easy to let these things eat me up, starting a more self-destructive circle. I encountered those when I was younger, when I didn’t know how to sort myself, when the territory that is me was darker and more unknown. I did a lot of destruction to myself and my life in those days. Fortunately, others helped me with patience, kindness, and insights. When I think back on some of the craziness, I gulp with amazement that I’m alive, intact, and not incarcerated.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
I dreamed my mother was sitting at a table and telling me of her dream, in which I was telling her of my dream, in which I dreamed she was saying, “Michael is gathering his energy and purging his disciplines.”
Don’t know what it means, but I dreamed it before. I recall thinking, what an unusual nesting dream. What are the Russian dolls called? Matryoshka dolls?
That stream triggered a search of old dreams, and there it was, December 7, 2016. I didn’t share the bit about Mom in the post, but posting about other dreams (which used the title “Matryoshka Dreams”) enabled me to do a search of my dream entries, where I found it.
I dreamed Mom and I were sitting at a table. She was telling me about her dream, which was a dream about me telling her about my dream. In my dream, she said, I told her, “Michael is gathering his energy and purging his disciplines.”
I don’t know what she/I meant about ‘purging my disciplines’. That doesn’t make sense to me.
I don’t know what Mom was wearing in that first dream, but in this dream, she wore a light blue shirt and was thirty years younger. She was the only person seen or heard in the dream, but I knew she was talking to me.
After I meditated about the dream’s meaning while traveling, I decided this was about thinking deeper and drawing deeper energy. It’s an intuitive leap. I can’t explain the intuition, except that it’s because the dream is about layers, and about both male and female energy, and mother and son energy. Now, writing that, I think, it’s also about balancing deep thinking and drawing deeper energy. Purging disciplines is about re-shaping paradigms vis–à–vis effort and expectations.
Or maybe I’m just tired.
I wasn’t satisfied with how things were going last month. I was in a tunnel, that tunnel shaped my life and attitude. There were no lights in my tunnel. Changes were needed to provide me a light to look to at the end of the tunnel. So, on a whim in August, unmentioned to anyone, I sought to make five changes.
- I quit drinking mochas every day.
- Priorities were re-evaluated and shifted.
- I re-balanced myself.
- Alcohol intake was reduced.
- I began drinking apple cider vinegar every morning.
My decision to stop drinking quad-shot mochas during my writing routine at the coffee shop freaked my barista buddies. I had to assure them, it wasn’t them, it was me. I didn’t explain why, though, just ordering black coffee. I’ve had two mochas since August 27, when I stopped, but they were of the weak Starbucks variety, which is more like mild hot chocolate than anything else, and were accepted when another bought them for me.
To re-evaluated priorities, I had to change how I approached blogging and my Fitbit activities. I’d become almost obsessive compulsive about establishing goals for them and following through. I had to remind myself, they’re not as important as other life matters. I blog far less. My daily Fitbit goals are met, but they’re the last item of focus.
Re-balancing myself required the biggest effort. I posted about it in The Resentful Writer.
I’m not and wasn’t a ‘big’ drinker. I liked having a glass of red wine in the evening. I stopped it. I haven’t had wine, except at one dinner, in three weeks. I reduced my beer intake. I enjoyed a beer when my wife and I went out to eat, so I took a pass a few times, and I forsook my Wednesday evenings spent having a beer with friends.
The apple cider vinegar was last. I think it’s the most drastic step. I’m frustrated with my digestive system. I’d recently read about the Kansas City Chiefs, an American pro football team. They like pickle juice as an electrolyte. A few days later, a friend told me that her late husband loved pickles, so she had a huge stash of pickles of different varieties, and she doesn’t like pickles. I told her about the Chiefs and pickle juice, and she reciprocated by remarking that people often come up with interesting remedies, such as apple cider vinegar. She couldn’t remember what people drink it for. I made a note to look it up later. The results I found enticed me to try it.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
I’ve been warring with myself. Fortunately, I’ve been winning.
The war is about priorities, routines, and discipline. I’ve worked hard to establish a daily writing routine. Discipline, so many writers counsel. If you want to write, write. Set up a schedule, and do it every day. So I’ve faithfully done. Friends, coffee shop employees, and family members all know my routine.
Several aspects have evolved on the quest for writing discipline and publication. First, I’ve learned that I’m happiest writing from mid- to late-morning to mid afternoon. Second, walking before writing helps me shift thoughts from daily life to plots and characters. Third, I write better outside of the house.
Writing outside of my home took some time for me to understand. My wife and I bought a home with a room that could be my office. We specifically set it up for that purpose. Yet, writing in there feels uncomfortable to me. Being an introspective person who self-obsesses, I’ve thought about why and came up with reasons.
First, cats. We have four. They seem drawn to my typing sounds. I suspect it sounds like scurrying little critters to them. Hearing my typing, the cats enter to investigate. Oh, it’s just you, they realize. Then, they say, give me some loving. Let me sleep on the keyboard. Let me on your lap. Let me mark this computer as mine. Permit me to play with your hand.
Yes, it’s precious, but it’s a frustrating divergence from the focus my scurrying brain cells need to type a coherent sentence. Closing the door on them doesn’t work. A close door is a challenge to get it open. They work on that challenge with scratching and mournful wails of deprivation.
The walks, too, are part of the whole thing with being out of the house. I leave, I walk, I shift into the writing mode, and go write somewhere. I think returning to the house pushes me out of the writing mode.
Socializing, chores, and errands all work against maintaining the schedule. Events come up that my wife wants to do, like go places, and have fun. I don’t know where she gets these ideas. I blame it on a bad element that she works out with.
She comes up with things to do. They’re enticing. I often want to do them, too. Well, I can say, “No,” to her. It sounds good, but it doesn’t work well. And I want to say, “Yes.” I want to have fun, and I want her happy, and I’ve heard that experiencing life can be a pleasant, entertaining experience, and help me develop as a writer by introducing me to other elements. So I say yes.
But I’m often resentful. My writing time gets whittled down to a third of my desired period. I’m forced to rush, and move the writing session to another time to accommodate the socializing.
Balance was needed. Balance is needed. Yet, the balance isn’t between socializing and writing; the balance is needed in me to accept that I don’t need to adhere to these hard-wired set of practices I created.
The shallow and insecure part of me fears that if I don’t write every day, I’ll lose the plot. The story will meander. My output will dry up. I’ll stop learning and improving as a writer. My meager stores of talent will oxidize, turn to dust, and get blown away. So, after working hard to establish my routines, I’m loathe to forfeit them, for anything, and anyone. The challenge, then, became, banish the fears. Accept variations.
Relaxing, I did. Yes, I write that like, la-di-da, I’m relaxed. It’s basically taken the year to date to get to the point where I’ve relaxed about it. I realized that my resentment was counter-productive. Negative energy often is. After I relaxed and dismissed my resentment – again, expressed as though I faced the sun and shouted, “Resentment, I dismiss thee,” three times, and it was all good, when it was really a constant wrestling match – I found I could enjoy socializing and varying my routines, and still be a productive writer who was having fun, learning, and improving.
It’s been a difficult lesson to learn. Once learned, I struggle to remember it, and keep the lessons learned in play. Sometimes, I feel like a child learning my ABCs.
It’s coming together, though. Check in with me again after twenty years. I believe I’ll have it down by then.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
Went with the ‘I am One’ with everything meditation today.
Sometimes I feel rattled and unsettled, searching for something in myself. Personal matters gnaw me. The Orlando murders probably escalated my need. I’ve already been feeling disturbed and frustrated with the pending Trump nomination. From what I see of his supporters, (and recognizing that I’m minimizing and stereotyping them, which doesn’t help anyone), they’re shallow, hateful people, without solutions, but ready to attack anyone different from them. They see the world in black and white, and want to protect “what’s theirs”. Immature and bullying, a master of playground name-calling, Trump feeds their anger and fires up crazy dreams that he can be POTUS and change their shit. But their festering shit is inside them. No POTUS can change that.
My questioning of them makes me question myself. Some say, “Better Trump than Hillary, who is a lying capitalist thief,” and I think, What? Where do they get their information? She isn’t perfect, but I trust my information (probably as they trust their information, we’re into such a destructive, widening cycle), even if I keep challenging my information. Full disclosure, I’m a Bernie Man. I support Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement. I support strong pubic education, a single payer universal health care system, feminism and the ERA. I support equal rights for everyone, period, and I want automatic weapons banned from civilian ownership in America. I despise the wealthy 1% and decry the trend toward consumerism, which drives misguided values into arguing things like, “Let’s not building affordable housing because it will pull down property values.” I can’t stand animal abuse. Torture sickens me, and it doesn’t worry. People who do things because they’re fearful worry me. So do people who quickly abandon their principles and critical thinking.
The ‘I am One’ helps calm, relax and restore me, returning me to my center of balance. I am One, I think, and then count the manner and items with which I’m one. I’m one with my future, present and past self, I am one with my physical, mental and emotional self. I am one.
Then I reach out to my surroundings, imagining myself one with my house — the walls, paint, wires, pipes, roof, foundation — and all its materials, and the furnishings. I extend myself out in ever growing circles, imagining myself as one with the surrounding yard, plants and grass, the trees, expanding to my town and its people, animals, and construction, reaching for the rivers and lakes, and the coastal waters, imagining myself as one with the sun and the seas, the moon and the star, eternity and infinity, and all the energies they encompass.
Many probably accuse me of being full of New Age woo-woo fuzzy gooeyness. And I laugh, and I meditate. (They stopped reading long ago, anyway.) Then, feeling restored and closer to being centered and balanced again, I go on. I don’t have answers, but I have a better sense of who I am.