riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Pandemic Projects

So much of how we deal with these crazy times depends on our circumstances: where we live, whether we’re employed or not, essential or working from home, and what our family structure is, whether we’re partnered, single, with or without kids.

I happen to be single, without children. I own a house and live alone in a small upstate NY town. When the pandemic hit in full force back in March, I was sent home to work, but there wasn’t much to do, so I had a lot of free time on my hands.

Lockdown rules said we weren’t supposed to leave our homes for anything other than groceries, medicine, essential work and walking a pet. In those early days, the virus was raging through New York State, especially NYC, where my sister and other family members live. I was so sick with worry most of the time that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. In fact, I felt paralyzed.

Then my dog ran off more than once after critters (once, I actually had to circle the block in my car to find her). And this set me on a path to fence my property, which was the first Pandemic Project.

The fear of losing my dog, and the desire to protect her, was a powerful motivator. Luckily, Lowe’s was an essential business. The store became my go-to spot other than the supermarket. I set out to build an inexpensive fence in the back and front yard, mostly by myself, with a friend helping me when I needed an extra hand.

At the same time as the fence project, I started getting my garden together, buying plants, pots, soil, mulch, building beds, planting, mulching, and, of course, making countless  trips to Lowe’s. When I was working on the fence or the garden, I didn’t think about anything else. After a few hours of physical labor, I would be too tired to worry, at least for a little while. I was in my yard every single day, rain or shine, working working working. Both projects took me, on and off, about two months to fully complete.   

In the evenings, I zoomed with friends I hadn’t talked to in a long time, with family members. I watched movies. I wrote. And I started reading again.

Reading was a Big Deal because I hadn’t had the mental concentration to read a book since my brother died two years ago. The book that changed that, which I picked up two months into lockdown, was Alex Haley’s 800-page novel ROOTS. I could not put it down (more on this seminal book in a later post). After that I read the dystopian novel STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel, about life after a pandemic. Also couldn’t put it down.

Looming over these other projects was my screenplay, which I’ve been working on for a long time and decided to finish this year. Since, lockdown forced me to be home all the time, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.

It was rough in the beginning. Being so terribly worried about family and friends all over the country and world was not conducive to writing. But I tackled it like all the other projects, a little bit at a time. There were days when I would tell myself, “all you have to do is write for one hour.” I would set my timer, silence my phone, turn off the WiFi, and begin. Inevitably, at the end of the hour, I would want to write for another hour, and another…. Then, when I could see the progress and the “light at the end of the tunnel,” it motivated me even more.

I finished the first official draft in May and sent it to my representation in Los Angeles. I completed a second draft in July (based on their feedback), and now I’m waiting for notes that will, no doubt, lead to the next draft. Each draft gets me closer to my goal.

I guess the thing that’s helped me deal with the pandemic the most is staying busy, and staying CREATIVE.

My advice to others struggling to stay productive during these times is to:

  • Have goals, no matter how small, and work towards them
  • Tone down expectations; realize that everything takes longer than usual these days
  • Avoid negative people and toxic energy like the plague
  • Avoid anyone or anything that doesn’t feel right, period
  • Go out of your way to be kind and forgiving to yourself (and others)
  • Get outside as much as  possible, while avoiding others
  • Change the scenery if you can; go somewhere new, even if just for a few hours
  • Talk to someone, a therapist or confidant, or write down what you’re feeling
  • Read, read, read, read, READ
  • Exercise in whatever way you can, stay hydrated and eat healthy
  • Stay in touch with the people you care about
  • Limit how much you listen to and read the news; take social media breaks

What has helped you? I’d love to hear about your Pandemic Projects.

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A Literary Life

typewriters-vintage-retro-style-wood-wallpaper-previewA couple of weeks ago, I was walking with a new writer friend who is disillusioned with her day job. When she said she’s craving a literary life, I responded with an enthusiastic YES! And we mused on what that would actually look like.

My definition of a literary life is one where you make a living as a writer. Perhaps I’m a romantic, but a true literary life also means you’re writing projects that you want to write, as opposed to just writing for money (a combination of both is acceptable).

Examples of people who led/lead literary lives, some more happily than others: Joan Didion, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Ronan Farrow, Shirley Jackson, and countless others.

Ironically, since the pandemic hit and quarantine life began, I’ve been living a semi-literary life, at least getting a taste of it. Being sent home to work and having a light workload afforded me much more time to myself, not to mention the general shutdown of everything and inability to go anywhere.

For the first time, I was home all day and still collecting a paycheck. My time was not entirely my own; I still had to check work emails and be available for conference calls, etc. But this took up only a fraction of the day. The rest of the time I was almost living That Life.

What does a literary life mean exactly? For one thing, it means a lot – and I mean A LOT – of time alone (the primary reason why this life isn’t for everyone).

I live alone so this is easy, but even if I had a partner or roommate, I would still need to spend a large part of my day by myself. Often I wonder if I’ll ever meet another partner who understands and is able to respect my need for long stretches of solitude.

While alone, I am mostly thinking, also watching movies or television shows,  making notes, researching, outlining, reading, talking to myself, and, yes, writing. 

When I’m IN THE ZONE, I rarely answer my phone. I prefer not to deal with people or really the world. I do take breaks but I really try to stay in the zone as much as possible and avoid outside distractions. This is the only way I can concentrate. Even then these measures are not always enough.

Sometimes I have to turn my phone and WiFi completely off. I’ve pulled back from the many volunteering activities I used to do, and, even now that things are opening up again, I only occasionally go out. The few times I did venture out, I was so quiet that people wondered if I was okay.

By no means, am I a workaholic.

I’m less confident that I’m not becoming a bit of a hermit.

I’m not sure everyone understands my behavior, how seriously I take my writing, or the countless hours necessary to write something good (it doesn’t help that I’m a slow writer).

Regardless, I’m absolutely determined to make a living as a writer… and every day I get closer.

In the past three months, I’ve managed to finish my screenplay and write two freelance articles. I’m now in the very early stages of writing the next screenplay. 

Soon, my time will be 100% my own, as my job let me go due to COVID (my last day is July 31). But I’m trying to think of it in a positive way. Like maybe this is another step towards my goal.

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What to Write About

First of all, Hello. I am happy to report that I am still alive, living in upstate New York with my dog Ruby, and both of us are healthy (knock on wood). I do feel slightly mortified that it took an actual Apocalypse to get me blogging again, but here we are… at home for the indefinite future, trying not to go insane, ie. the perfect time to dust off this old WordPress site and hit “new post.”

Now that I have Nothing but Time, there are so many things to write about, I don’t even know where to begin.

I could write about my first ever trip to Paris in December 2019 and how great it was, and how relieved I am that I went when I did because who knows when it’ll be safe to go back and leisurely walk around museums and eat all the things in restaurants like one does in Paris.

I could write about the new screenplay I recently completed and sent via the matrix to Los Angeles, what it feels like to wait for feedback, how I’m trying to not count the days (7 so far) or analyze what each additional day with no feedback could mean, how disappointing it is that I’m not as over this kind of angst as I thought I was, and how I’m now questioning whether I was I ever cut out for this in the first place, and what was I thinking trying to be a writer?

I could write about the trip I was supposed to take to Los Angeles (after a 5-year absence) last month that got postponed (not canceled!) due to the pandemic and how much I was looking forward to it, especially holding a reading of the screenplay with actors. I’m trying to wrap my mind around doing the reading via Zoom.

I could write about how obsessed I am with gardening and how I can’t decide whether this is a healthy hobby or an expensive distraction from dealing with my actual life and all the projects I want to write but don’t seem to be able to concentrate long enough to actually begin writing.

I could write about how, in addition to how hard it is to start something new, it’s also extremely challenging to finish anything, which is a particularly frustrating conundrum.

I could write about how listless I feel these days, and how simple things like going to the grocery store totally exhaust me,  which of course leads to my using and eating everything in the house until there’s only one cup of rice left, a few condiments and one roll of TP (donated by friends) to hold me over until I can muster the strength to go back out to the store.

I could write about how my mood has apparently become totally dependent on the weather; on cold rainy days I can barely get out of bed, on warm sunny days I am manically working on outside projects like erecting a fence around my property and painting said fence, all by myself, which is equal parts self-sufficient, frugal and insane.

I could write about how when the pandemic began I obsessively begged my relatives who live in major cities to leave their homes and escape to the countryside before the authorities closed the bridges and roads, and how, six weeks later, they finally did escape, and now they’re marveling at the relative quiet (bird chirping having replaced ambulance sirens) relaxed atmosphere and green lushness.

I could write about how my community has come together to make masks and start food bank initiatives and other do-good projects, but I feel apart from all that and pretty isolated even though I’m only three blocks from Main Street.

I could write about how it’s been 9 years since Kaz died, 4 years since my father died, almost 2 years since my brother died, and almost 28 years since my mother died, and I’m still not over any of these losses, nor will I ever be, but I’m grateful at least that my parents aren’t here to witness the madness and dangers of this current U.S. administration and global crisis.

I could write about how much I’ve grown to admire Governor Andrew Cuomo and can’t decide whether I’d prefer him to be my President, my adopted father, or my new husband, but his daily press briefings are one of the few things keeping me calm and giving me hope these days.

I could write about so many things… but for now, I think I will just say

Hello. It’s nice to be back. I’ve missed this blog, and I’ve missed you bloggers and readers.

What are you up to?

What are you writing about?

How are you doing?

Talk to me.


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A New Lens on Life

Earlier this year I bought a used Canon 5D MII. Best decision ever. I’ve actually never owned a *real* camera, one that takes super nice photos, where you can control things. There are obviously more advanced cameras than this one out there, but the Canon 5D MII is a Very Good Camera.

Not only does it take gorgeous photos, but it also shoots beautiful video. When I lived in Los Angeles, I worked with professional camera people, and rarely shot my own footage. The fact that I can shoot video now is significant. It gives me a freedom I haven’t experienced in a long time. With this camera, I am re-training my eyes, learning a new instrument, practicing how to capture the world around me with both still and moving images.

It’s by far the healthiest move I’ve made in a long time.

Here are some still images from the past few months… I’ll post videos in the next post.


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The Key to (this) Writer’s Happiness: Organization + Routine

I think the key to happiness is… staying organized. At least, for me. I’m not one of those writers who works in a cluttered office. I like things to be neat and in their place, so I can find them when necessary, so I don’t have to think about the mess. I’m obsessed with lists, making them, crossing them off.

Lately, I’ve been taking care of things that have been on my To Do list for months. New brakes on car, repaying loans, sending thank you cards, organizing my office papers, making and showing up for doctor appointments, etc. It feels good to check things off, to not have them hanging over my head, to have order. I actually enjoy paying bills and balancing my checkbook.

I’m also easily distracted. So, routine (i.e. organized time) is my friend.

The other day on Instagram, @instarlodge (a residency center that I follow) posted the following: Louise Bourgeois was very habitual with her morning routine. She would drink a cup of tea “with some jelly straight out of the jar,” her assistant recalled. Afterwards, he explained, “she’d have a bit of a sugar high and be ready to roll.” Her morning Routine was so set and connected with her assistant she created 10 am is When You Come to Me (2006). Which all goes to say, we’re interested in your morning routine, how you set up for the day, the week. 

I responded in the comments: Wash dishes. Make coffee. Drink coffee and think while outside throwing stick for dog. Feed dog. Take shower. Dress. Review lists, make lists. Get to work.

(I forgot to add Make bed. Like, I can’t leave the house with an unmade bed.)

This basic routine rarely changes. Sometimes the dog and I will go for a walk or hike instead of playing fetch, but that’s the only variance.

In fact, the dog knows the routine so well, she doesn’t even get out of bed (on the second floor) until she hears my spoon stirring the milk into coffee. It’s like that movie Get Out, when the guy has an automatic reaction every time he hears the tinkling of a tea cup being stirred, except with the bionic hearing of a dog. I’ve tried stirring the coffee silently… but her four feet still thump-thump-thump down the stairs.

Once I tried feeding her before going outside; she looked at me like, “who are you?”

So, yeah, organization… and routine. This is my happy place (my dog’s happy place too). Because when life throws those curveballs, all that organization and routine get shattered like broken glass, and it’s so difficult to put the pieces back together, to find that steady rhythm again. Even good news can do this… but definitely bad news, stress and grief.

When I maintain my routine and stay organized, in control of things, that’s when shit gets done. My head is free to wander and roam. My writing is more relaxed and confident. I can focus on the task at hand… and I treasure this.

What’s your routine?


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Observe

It’s been so long since I’ve written here. I feel almost shy about it. But I miss writing, sharing, having my voice out there. It’s been too long.

Life is… okay. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. It’s too much to unpack in a blog post, but I’m still grappling with the loss of my brother, on top of other losses. It’s not an every day in your face kind of grappling, not something I think about consciously all the time… more of a vibration under the surface of things, compounded by other life factors.

I’d like to say I have answers. Sometimes I think, I’m an expert on loss. But I’m not really. Just because I’ve experienced it many times, from different angles, doesn’t mean I know anything… except, maybe, to be patient and observe.

My former therapist used to say that a lot, “Just observe… your thoughts, feelings, behavior, any patterns, don’t judge or try to change anything yet, just pay attention to what’s happening…”

So, that’s what I’m doing. Observing. Taking notes. Registering.

Wishing you all well, dear readers. Hope you haven’t given up on me.

I’ll write again soon. XO


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Gardening through Grief

My mother had chronic poor health her entire life, including as a child. She spent a lot of time alone, recuperating from one thing or another, often reading a book, or drawing, in her uncle’s enormous garden, which she described as a magical world of plants, birds, butterflies and critters. A refuge and sanctuary. Later in life, she would have her own small garden. I didn’t really get it when I was a child, but I did love to be out there with her. Today, I’m discovering gardening for myself, and how healing and meditative it is.

This summer was my first living in a house that I own, and my taking control of the environment began outside. I have a nice-sized yard, not too big or small, and I knew I wanted a garden.

First I did my research, and consulted gardening friends. Then I painted my garden shed (it used to be white with blue trim), and set up my first garden, a combination of raised bed for vegetables, several flowerbeds, and half a dozen pots.

I was out of town when I learned of my brother’s accident, and in those first anguished texts to friends, the one thing I asked for is that someone please water my garden.

I came home a few days later and spent that entire week trimming all the hedges that surround my property with hand clippers. I clipped every day for a couple of hours before and after work. One of my neighbors finally offered to lend me her electric hedge trimmer, but I declined, despite my hands and wrists being sore. I found it cathartic to snip the bushes manually. It was my way exerting a tiny bit of control, and releasing a little of my anger.

In the subsequent weeks, I’ve been mildly obsessive about the garden. I’m out there every morning with Ruby, checking on the plants, talking to them, encouraging them, weeding and watering them, adding support to the tomatoes, pruning their leaves.

When I’m working in the garden, I’m not thinking about anything else but the plants. I love putting my hands in the earth, the feeling of cool, moist soil, teeming with the little bugs and worms. It’s like feeling Life itself.

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I love watching the plants grow and develop. It’s a slow process which requires patience, but if you pay attention, you do notice differences day to day. Especially after it rains, which it’s been doing a lot lately. And, of course, eating anything you grow is nothing short of miraculous.

Equally fascinating is how the plants react not only to the weather, but also to different environments… some better in pots, others better in soil, and still, others, seem to thrive when next to other plants, or when they’re moved to a different spot.

My basil was near death until I moved it into a larger pot; now it’s as big as a bush. My mint was fragile and gangly until I moved it to the garden bed. Now it’s lush and healthy.

The process inspires me with hope.

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I feel connected to the plants, like we have a relationship of sorts. I sense that they have some kind of consciousness, and they like being attended to. Sometimes I gently run my fingers over their leaves, just to let them know that I’m here.

I love inspecting the flowers and herbs. This one looks like a piece of art to me. I still can’t get over how beautiful it is.

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Occasionally, I pick them and bring them inside. I send photos of the bouquets to my sister and sister in law… “virtual flowers for you.”

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It turns out there is such a thing as gardening therapy. As this article about Horticultural therapists points out, “research has shown that the flexible nature of gardening projects allows service users to feel empowered in a non-threatening space. It also helps develop nurturing skills and is thought to boost mindfulness, as well as increasing serotonin and dopamine levels.”

It makes total sense. Gardening is nurturing. Expressive. Creative. It’s also a community. I’ve made new friends, mostly older than I am, who are avid gardeners. They give me advice, and they give me plants, both (I’ve discovered) part of the tradition of gardening.

Now I have to think of what to do with my brother’s ashes, where to put them in the garden. I’m thinking of planting a tree or bush, but not sure which one yet.

In the meantime, I’m already starting to think about how I’ll do things differently next year, where I will move plants, which ones I will give away, and which ones to buy new. It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

Do you have a garden?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Why I Don’t Kill Bugs

Picture this. You walk into your bathroom and notice a large centipede in your tub, frozen in place, perhaps because it senses you, but alive. What do you do?

Most people would smash the centipede with their shoe, pick it up with some toilet paper, and throw it in the toilet. That’s what I used to do.

Lately, however, my attitude towards bugs has changed, and no one is more surprised by this than I. That’s because I very strongly dislike things that scurry or buzz, especially in my house, but even outside. When I encounter one of these creepy-crawly-buzzing creatures I tend to react with the stereotypical “scream and jump on the nearest chair” routine, followed by the equally predictable “search and destroy” routine.

The only exception has been spiders. I don’t know if it’s a myth I once heard, or because I read Charlotte’s Web when I was a child, but I’ve always believed it’s bad luck to kill a spider.

I think the attitude shift towards the rest of the creepy-crawlies started after my late husband died. I remember going on a hike in the Santa monica mountains about four weeks after he died. It was ill-advised to attempt a hike – I was totally exhausted and didn’t make it very far.

I ended up sitting at a bench and just staring at the scenery – ducks in the water, flies and bumblebees buzzing around, a hummingbird making its way from flower to flower. At the time, I felt resentment, like why did these flies and bumblebees get to live and Kaz didn’t?

But over the years, I started marveling at anything to do with Nature, even bugs. I actually started feeling like we humans are the guests, and the bugs, plants, and animals are the hosts. Like it’s their planet. We’re just passing through.

When I moved from Los Angeles to rural upstate New York, the bugs and critters seemed more natural than people. I still screamed when I saw them in my house, but I hesitated before running after them with a can of bug spray. And I felt really bad when I killed one. That house had a mice problem, and the owner helped me put out traps and poison. One day I came home to a dead mouse floating in the toilet, which was beyond gross, but also sad. The mouse probably ate the poison and jumped into the toilet to relieve his thirst or pain. I felt terrible for it.

When I moved into my current house, I was relieved that it didn’t seem to have any major bug or rodent issues. Then, one winter’s day when all the windows were closed, a diamond-dhaped, flat, flying bug suddenly landed on my computer, seemingly out of nowhere. Normally, I would have killed it, but something told me not to.

I very gently picked the bug up with a tissue, opened the window to the freezing winter’s air, and threw it outside, wishing it luck.

I repeated this with about a dozen identical bugs (or a dozen times with the same bug, who knows) over the course of that first winter. After the third time, I decided to research the bug and learned that it was a Stink Bug, which are common in this area and relatively harmless.

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Killing a Stink Bug releases… you guessed it… the Mother of all Stinks. So, my instinct to not kill it was correct.

Since then, I have felt less inclined to kill other bugs I come across. Which brings me back to the centipede.

A few weeks ago I saw this thing in my tub.

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I immediately screamed and ran out of the bathroom, horrified and hyperventilating.

When I finally got up the nerve to re-enter the bathroom, I stood over the tub and inspected the centipede. My voice must have startled it, because now it was trying desperately to crawl out, but as soon as it got halfway up, it slid back down. It was definitely trapped.

Everything about this bug revolted me.  But I simply couldn’t kill it. Which meant I had to get rid of it some other way.

First, I tried easing a piece of toilet paper under it, but the minute I got close, the damn thing started running so fast, it was almost on my finger before I knew what was happening. I screamed, dropped the toilet paper with the centipede, and ran out of the bathroom again.

A few minutes later, I returned with a New Yorker magazine.

“I’m not trying to hurt you,” I said to the centipede. “I’m trying to save you.”

I took a deep breath, paused to open the window and the screen, then gently placed the New Yorker under the centipede. Once again it ran at lightening speed across the magazine, but I had *just* enough time to stand up and throw it and the New Yorker outside.

This same scenario happened with a black ant, as well as a spider. Apparently, my tub is a popular spot.

Then, of course, there was the squirrel who jumped in front of my car and which I quickly swerved to avoid hitting.

The deer that someone else hit, whose dead body on the side of the road caused me to burst into tears.

And the frogs.

Returning home from a friend’s house in the woods one rainy evening, my headlights picked up on movement on the road ahead. It was hundreds, if not thousands, of little frogs jumping in the middle of the road (this video shows a similar situation, though I was on a smaller country road).

It was too late to turn back, so I had to keep going… knowing that I was killing at least a few frogs. It was heartbreaking.

As was the other day when a bee stung me, and I realized that the bee would die.

Why am I telling you about these weird stories? I guess because I see a direct correlation between loss and life.

I was just trying to explain this to a friend the other day (and wasn’t terribly articulate about it). Losing people, and experiencing death up close, humbles you. Humbles me. To the point where I don’t look at any living creature  in the same way. The centipede, bees, worms, snakes, rats, mice, you name it… call me a hippie, but I will spend a little more time to avoid them without harming them.

Unless you’re a mosquito.

If you’re a mosquito, fuggedaboutit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Darkness, My Old Friend

Darkness. We meet again.

I call you “my old friend,” but you most definitely are not my friend. Nor are you my enemy. You are a familiar presence, a being of some sort, thrust upon me against my will in times of tragedy. At least, that’s what you seem to me now. We’ve met each other so many times that I feel connected to you in some weird way. Unlike a real friend, I am never happy to see you, and I dislike you very much. But at this point in my life, there is perhaps no one with whom I have been more intimate than you.

If you add up all of our time together, it’s longer than my longest relationship. And in those intense periods, you’ve consumed my mind, body, heart and soul. You’ve been in my blood and in my bed. You’ve seen me at my very weakest and most agonized state, heard my cries and confessions, my hopes, fears, prayers, and dreams. You know my habits, my self doubts, my anger. You know my heart, and how much I love the people we share in common.

I won’t say you took them from me. That is not your role. Your role is to fill the space that the person I loved once occupied… with darkness. You are the abyss, the cold watery depth, the hole in my chest, in all of our chests, for you descend on everyone who loved the person.

I will say that, even though we’ve met before, this time (every time) feels different. More personal. A little too close to home.

I cannot yet address too directly the still-unfathomable fact that my dear beautiful brother died six weeks ago. Or the manner in which he died – a horrible freak accident caused by a drunk driver.

On an intellectual level, I understand that the driver caused the accident to happen. On a non-intellectual, emotional, subconscious level I do not understand how the accident was allowed to happen by the unseen force(s) of the universe. Random acts of tragedy have always stumped me in this way. It’s terribly challenging to not ask Why, even more so to not point fingers at the sky.

Losing my brother was an energy shift. You, dear Darkness, are the aftermath. The messenger, the ambassador sent to inhabit our hearts and minds until we heal enough to no longer justify your presence.

What a sad existence for you, to be the vessel and bearer of so much sorrow, powerless to prevent the collective pain, eternally unwanted and unloved, watching people suffer from the loss of a love that you’ll never experience. To be nothing more than a void, into which our screams and cries and beating of chests disappear like sound waves in space, dead on arrival, no one to hear them.

The only positive thing I can say about you is that I tend to learn something new every time we meet. Reluctantly, of course. I prefer to learn these lessons some other way.

I can’t say “welcome back,” but simply hello. I have a few more grey hairs since last we met. I’ve put on a few pounds. But I’m stronger and more aware of myself than before. Also, more positive. I know that eventually the painful squeezing of my heart, the confusion and fogginess will subside. I know that the bits of my heart that were torn away will heal in time until they are rough internal scars. I know that new memories will create a distance from old memories, thereby dulling the pain of remembering my brother in a visceral way like I do now. I know that his wife and children will survive their broken hearts and thrive with his strength forever in their bodies and souls.

For now, though, all of us who loved him are going through it. For me, it’s the quiet moments that are the most difficult. It’s taken me six weeks to be able to sit at my computer without sobbing. It took about five weeks to be able to write in my journal that my brother died. Today, it’s still very hard for me to look at recent pictures of him.

But you know all of this, don’t you? Yes, you know it all.

Though I dislike you very much, I can’t say that I hate you because you are born from love. The more love, the deeper you penetrate, and the longer you stay.

And so, here we are, together again… for what will surely be a long period of coexistence. I wonder what you will teach me this time.

 


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In These Uncertain Times

All I want in life right now is stability and security, so that I can get back to my creative writing. There’s been a lot going on, including being busy at my part-time job, losing my second part-time job, looking for more work, taking care of my house and dog, keeping up with family, friends, and other social responsibilities. On top of everything, last week I was under the weather and still had to work. Nightmare!

With all these distractions and set backs, it’s been challenging to stay positive, let alone write consistently. There have been days when I’ve been lonely, sad, depressed, angry. I have questioned my life decisions: Why did I leave Los Angeles? Why don’t I write more? Why aren’t I making movies? Why did I adopt a second dog? Why did I spend  so much money on X, Y, and Z? Why have I wasted so much time?? So on, and so on…

We all go through periods like this. Periods of Uncertainty. They’re terribly frustrating, but part of life. We often don’t know what’s around the corner, or how things are going to turn out. We hope for the best, but nothing is guaranteed. Uncertainty is, in my opinion, the antithesis of creativity. It’s hard to be creative when you don’t know how you’re going to pay your mortgage.

So, what should we do? Just give up?

HELL NO.

Giving up is not an option.

But there are things we can do to make these challenging times a little more bearable:

  • *MOST IMPORTANT* Do not get down on yourself. This is the worst possible thing you could do and serves no purpose whatsoever. Instead…
  • Recognize the positive things you are doing. Every step, no matter how small, moves you closer to your goal. Remember, you are doing your best!
  • Be creative when you can. Maybe it’s a few minutes when you wake up in the morning, or before you go to sleep. Maybe it’s on your lunch hour. Find a few minutes in your day to flex those creative muscles.
  • Keep at least one regular social outlet with like-minded creative people. At the beginning of this year, I started a monthly writer’s group with a few friends, and it is literally saving my sanity right now. At the very least, this group is making me open my manuscript and review my work. I’m receiving feedback on my pages, even if I’m not writing a lot. Reading and analyzing other people’s work also flexes my writing brain.
  • Keep exercising. Taking your dog for long walks counts!
  • Take media breaks. Turn off your phone, radio, television, and unplug. Again, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will help quiet your brain and keep you centered.
  • Treat yourself to something small. Feel good about that job interview? Go have a sushi lunch. Get a mani/pedi. Buy yourself a used book. Do something nice for yourself as a reward.
  • Bond with others in the same boat. I have a friend who is also looking for work, and we’ve been meeting up lately (often over beers) to talk about our days. It helps! We even send each other job postings, sometimes for jobs we’re applying to. We’re supporting each other, rather than being competitive.

I could go on… but you get the idea. The point is to Take Care Of Yourself. Now more than ever.

Of course there will be down moments. Feel them and move on. Don’t wallow, don’t look back, don’t stay stuck. Keep it moving, and keep it positive as much as possible.

This too shall pass, friends.