Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

Missing The Clarity of Love and War


It’s been 2.5 years since Kaz passed away and though I’m better than I was early on, I’m still not back to feeling 100%. There are many reasons for this and many manifestations, but the one that keeps kicking me in the shins is my inability to focus. I am distracted by everything: music, television, food, my phone (gateway to the internet), computer (gateway to the internet), dog, friends, family, colleagues, even my own thoughts.

How to Focusby John T. Roosevelt (www.rsvlts.com)

How to Focus by John T. Roosevelt (www.rsvlts.com)

It’s more than just a lack of focus. Planning ahead in any concrete fashion is challenging, as is staying motivated.

Part of the issue is having a lot going on: full-time job, personal life, dog, film script, television script, book, blog, networking, and now a job search. I’m not working on everything at once, but the time I do spend on creative pursuits feels thin and scattered. Progress happens so slowly it’s almost imperceptible. I keep thinking of the metaphor: How do you eat a whale? Answer: One bite at a time. 

But it’s more than the whale too.

A friend recently told me, “We can only concentrate on three things at a time.” In her case, she has her day job, her personal life, a part-time job and one creative project.

Another friend is producing an independent film (extremely time consuming), while trying to get multiple other projects lined up, maintain her personal life and take care of her dog.

Yet another friend is balancing a day job, her art career, a family (including two teenagers, husband and dog), and staying connected with her artistic, professional and personal community.

Each of these women manages her time and priorities to accomplish a great deal on a daily basis, even more on a long-term basis. Each is driven by Love and Passion. I know because I used to be like them… when Kaz was alive.

In the two years before he got sick, I produced and directed three music videos, a full production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, wrote a feature screenplay, worked for three months as an assistant editor in Mexico, and one year as a production manager in Los Angeles.

During the first half of his illness, I managed to write a spec television script. In the second half, I could only manage to write in my journal. But I continued to work a full-time day job while being his caregiver… and being his caregiver became my focus.

As I’ve mentioned before, there were aspects of caregiving that felt like  production, except this time it wasn’t a music video or film – it was life or death. This time I wasn’t motivated by ambition and creativity, but by the desire to keep Kaz alive, and us together, for as long as possible. Nothing had ever felt as important. While others resigned themselves to the inevitability of the sinking ship (including Kaz at one point), I was hell bent on keeping the ship afloat.

Of course, the ship did sink. And ever since, I haven’t cared about anything as much. I haven’t given up on my life or dreams, by any stretch. I do strive forward in my own hap-hazard kind of way. But what still eludes me is the fire-in-the-belly passion and laser focus that I felt during those days of intense highs and lows, when every day felt like a battle and a gift, and every moment agonizingly precious. Do I need life or death stakes to stay motivated? I hope not.

In any case, the new ship remains docked while the Captain struggles to chart the best course. It’s just me and my dog on this ship, and as much as she helps to keep me centered, in no way does she (or our current existence) compare to what was. Nothing could possibly compare to that.

It’s selfish to miss the days when Kaz was sick. I don’t miss them. But I do pine for the passion we felt. The clarity of purpose. The empowerment that came from being pushed to our limits and not falling apart. The inspiration of watching each other be so courageous. Neither of us had ever felt so alive or focused as in those days of love and war.

One day I will experience that clarity again. It might be the day I quit my job. It might be the first day of production on my next film. It might be the day I look into my child’s eyes. But this day will come, and when it does, I’ll be ready.

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

24 thoughts on “Missing The Clarity of Love and War

  1. You have put into words what it is I have been fighting. Focus. I have lacked it since the day Bill died. For almost the first year he was gone, I was so strung out with stress but I did carry some focus. I had to. I was was running his company and then the holidays came and I crashed. I have been ever since. How does it come back? When can’t I just go back to the person I was before I he died?

    • It’s amazing to me how we can function at such a high level when we are stressed, then unable to think straight when things are “normal” again. I’ve never been to war, but I’ve read articles about soldiers returning from war who feel this way too. Unmotivated, confused, unable to concentrate, unable to stop thinking of (even pining for) the battlefield, even though it was horrific and stressful.

      I wish I knew how it comes back, or how to get it back. I think it just takes time. How much time, I don’t know. Therein lies the frustration.

  2. The NP in me wants to respond one way, the friend in me another. I wish I could help you … I will tell you that this is not an unusual thing and that there are folks out there who can offer you help and direction. I’m pretty impressed with all that you have accomplished since you lost Kaz … but it’s to be expected that you still struggle.

      • Oh sorry! I am a Women’s Health and Family Nurse Practitioner 🙂

      • Ah, okay. So what would the NP say? I’m curious. 🙂

      • Niva, I loved reading the exchange that you had with dswidow (and I’ve been followoing her blog). If you had been sitting in my office and said these things to me, I would have asked if you’d had a chance to talk to a professional counselor or life coach. The reason is because of exactly the dialogue you had with dswidow (wish I knew to call her something else). The assessment for depression is always important, but also the assessment of life. You are experiencing what many, many, many of the women I see complain about, most of those who are not widows.
        Essentially women have so much on their plates and they have lost the ability to assess what NEEDs to be their and have not put enough on the plate that feeds the soul and nourishes the body. What kinds of things can be moved off the plate so that time for other things can be found? An objective person can help with that.
        You were able to accomplish all those things while taking care of Kaz because you were passionate about and loved the things you were involved in.
        So … decide what one or two things you can let slide and pick up something (dance, motorcycle, bicycle, whatever) that you feel passionate about. Then at least for that time of the day or week, you will feel the passion and it will spread to other parts of your life.
        sorry for the length of this reply … 🙂

      • No need to apologize for the length. I really appreciate it! I don’t have a life coach but I do have a therapist who helps me analyze things and sometimes offers advice. Not the same as a professional advisor though.

  3. So well put – and so true. I find I’m still exhausted every Friday, and by the time I feel ready to do focus on something it’s another Monday and I’m back to work. It seems to take me ages to do tasks that I could knock off in an afternoon in my “old life”. On the other hand, I started taking classes in improv – and that seems to be the one thing where I do have energy and focus, and it is starting to transfer to other areas of my life. Maybe the trick is to find something new, without any memories, and use that as the launch pad to move forward.

    • Oh, an improv class sounds great! It makes sense that you would have energy and focus there because you have to be so present and in the moment. I have felt like that in dance class and also when riding motorcycle, both of which I miss. The thing is I’m hesitant to take on more activities when my plate is already so full, but maybe. Glad you’re doing that improv class.

  4. You’re accustomed to running at a VERY high creative level! Most people couldn’t have done 1/10th of what you’ve done…so be proud of that! I find it helpful to keep a running list of ST, MT and LT projects — short, medium and long-term, or I get completely overwhelmed and forget shit. I think that setting the creative bar high is a terrific goal, but it does take a ton of energy and focus. I am not sure you need limit yourself to only three projects at once, but limiting it can help.

    I agree that the soldier analogy is a useful one…there is also a powerful sense of camaraderie they lose once they come home to a quiet dull existence.

    I recently took a break from paid writing (to coach and teach.) I had no idea how tired I was, but it has given me a really needed break. You might “just” be tired. 🙂

    • Thanks Caitlin. The list is a great idea. So far I just keep a list in my head, though I do write a daily To Do list. I relate to that loss of camaraderie too, one of the many differences between now and “then.”

      Interesting thought about being tired. That makes a lot of sense. Really it’s just been go-go-go for several years.

      • There is apparently a very popular TED talk about how essential it is to get a lot of sleep in order for us to be creative. I typically sleep 8-10 or more hours every night and nap as needed. I just can’t run at the pace I prefer if I am sleep-deprived. It also really reduces my emotional reserves — i.e. I get bitchy! 🙂

        Having a list somewhere in your computer is a great “tickle file” — we all forget stuff when we’re trying to do so much at once.

  5. Hi Niva!

    Wow – I really related to this blog post (and I loved both the “how to get organized” comic and the whale metaphor :-)).

    Sometimes I wonder if I was always in the middle of ten different jobs/projects or if this just happened over the last 10-15 years or so. Meaning is this a whole new paradigm we’ve all entered, along with play dates for kids?

    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have only one or two things to do every day instead of 10.

    When things get really bad, I think of the advice given to me by Dr. Peebles – (a naturopath who is no longer living and who gets channeled by a woman named Natalie). He reminds – “there is no ‘there’ to get to.” Once you get your script done, then what? And once you get your job as a writer, then what will you still want to accomplish? Meaning, there will always be 10 things on the plate and not enough time to work on them all.

    Anyway – as you can see I struggle with this a lot. I figure if I spend the days on things I enjoy doing, no matter what is getting “accomplished,” then I’m enjoying my life. And isn’t that the over-riding goal of life in general? To be happy? Or has checking off to-do lists and the successful completion of projects taken happiness’ place?

    Just some food for thought!

    Hope all is well – it sounds like it is, despite the lack of focus. 🙂 XxShay

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Shay! I’m so happy to hear from you on here. 🙂 I figured other women would be able to relate because we’re always multi-tasking. While I agree that there is a tendency to feel “it’s never enough,” I also think we know when we’re feeling fulfilled or not. I don’t think it’s a matter of not having a lot to do, rather having things on your plate that you love doing. Making a film is insanely busy and stressful and there’s never enough time, etc. but I love doing it. You’re right that we should always remember to enjoy the process/journey, not just fixate on the end goal.

      And yes, all is well, despite the lack of focus. I’ve been turning my phone off more. That helps.


  6. Great post ! The priorities will eventually assert themselves. You have much to consider ! HUGS.

  7. Just checking in on you, Niva! How you be?

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  9. Pingback: Words To Remember: Camera, Lights, Action! | Riding Bitch

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