Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Inside the 11th Hour

It consumes your thoughts. I know, you don’t want to admit it. Most of the time, neither do I because it’s
something trivial or fleeting or an idol I’ve created out of something that won’t last.

I won’t judge.

Because hear this loud and clear, I sure as heck don’t want your judgment spotlighted on me.

Stepping into this risk, I’m going to reveal what’s crept into just about every single one of my thoughts lately. Pervasive as dewy skin humidity.

I’ve been wondering about the 11th hour. I’ve been giving too much credit to time. Time as we understand it.

Let me explain.

I’m not talking about Meg Ryan weeping on Billy Crystal’s shoulder, “I’m gonna be forty.” I am talking about this subconscious time table I have, regulating some sort of order of events in my brain. Picture a factory of clocks if you will. A factory creating a false sense of soundness and inaccurate logic.

I hope to be published by…
I want my girls to learn this by…
I’m eager for my marriage to look like this by…
I will finally learn this by…

While you could easily call these expectations or goals (I’m a strong believer in goal-setting), I’m going to suggest they’re also linked to fruit. When you pour time and energy into something the typical consequence is that you experience evidence of time and energy invested.

Here’s the catch. The time catch.

Time is limited. Unpredictable. And sometimes time squashes fruit. Or it rots it, making those hopes and wants seem futile, if not ridiculous.

So we’re on the same page, I’m not merely referring to the seconds and days we’re granted here on earth, but the entire concept as a whole. Dreams can’t be crammed inside time. Or lessons. Or hope.

It is these thoughts that ground me when I begin to get desperate and worried things won’t come through for me in the 11th hour. There’s still a window, I tell myself. There’s still hope. What if life is one gigantic 11th hour? What if my faith is finding ways to come through for me all the time?

What I really want to know is when I began to let it slide—hope? When did I give time the keys to my cerebral car, hijacking hope in the process? At what point did I shove trust into a box, ordering it to stay there until I tell it to come out?

This is probably why I love reading books that bust free from the conventional ways we understand time…The Time Traveler’s Wife. Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and why I’m looking forward to reading The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochin. Also why I’m tempted to make a Benjamin Button joke at least once a week. Marty McFly, anyone?

Here’s the thing, I’m taking back the keys. I’m going to embrace the wild idea that the 11th hour is a limitless playground of becoming and elongated saves.

Have you ever given time too much credit in your life concerning a particular situation? Could we all be living in the 11th hour?

photo by stock.XCHNG

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”  
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Joy Stealers for Writers

If you’ve been writing long enough I don’t have to expound upon the following joy stealers much. You know them and you know them well. Writing is not for the feeble, the quick quitters or the wishy-washy. 

Writing is for those with malleable hearts, insatiable curiosities, and ironclad resolve.

Because there are joy stealers lurking and ready to rob you from the unexplainable joy writing can inspire.

And they are…

When you hold up the picture of what you thought the writing life would look like and it doesn’t even vaguely resemble what writing actually is.

Distraction Deluge
When life hits you with a bombardment of commitments and you’re squeezed dry of time and energy.

Somewhere along the way you lost the majestic wonder that motivated you when you began writing. The confidence and belief that you were meant for this shrinks to the size of a mustard seed. (Hmm…a mustard seed.)

Dry Spell
Ideas disappear into thin air like genie smoke, triggering a season of drought. You find yourself flirting with the belief you were wrong and that you’re ideas won’t ever grow green and vibrant again.

Criticism comes your way without a shred of anything constructive in it.

Derelict Characters
You’ve gotten so caught up in the story you’ve forgotten who’s writing who. Until one day your characters rebel and attempt to throw you entirely off course. Worse than a rabbit trail, this is a career direction detonator. (A key time to listen because characters always have something interesting to teach us, but ultimately to also remember whose boss.)

Deceptive Deathblow
Rejections, people who promised to be you’re biggest support but who fail to meet your expectations, the love of writing shriveling like embers turned to ash. Somewhere along the way you mistakenly substituted love of craft for so many other seductive loves—approval, acceptance, validation, timing, attention, etc.

Deadline Drift
Date looming and your mind draws a big fat blank. You feel like you’re writing for the man. A machine. The romanticism of the craft is stripped away.

Dead end Delusion
With writing there is no end in sight. It’s all about exploration and learning and discovery. But there’s nothing like the publishing industry to fool a writer into entertaining these familiar thoughts:
“I’ll be happy when…
I finish my novel
I get an agent
a house buys my book
I see my book in print
or my formatting is done for e-book
I meet my sales goals
I sell another book…”

& so the dance begins again.

Debilitating Doubt
I can’t. Therefore I won’t.

 On the flip side, Joy Planters are:

Commitment to write through the highs and lows.

A “I’ll write no matter what I feel” attitude that presents opportunities for you to learn far more about yourself during the process than at the outcome.

Because it always comes back to choice.
You have a choice in this. Freedom to keep at it or to chuck the whole thing.

As for me and my mouse (bad computer humor), we will surf the lore.

What have you found to be a joy stealer during your writing journey? And a joy planter?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Had This List of Rules

I shot myself in the foot for years as a mother. I didn’t know I was doing it. It was as though I were running around crazy trying to be the best mom I could be while unknowingly firing arrows into the Achilles heel of my undoing.

I had this list of rules in my head.

You know…a good mom _______________. 
A bad mom...________________.

Sound vaguely familiar?

I work really hard not to pass judgment on others, but I spent a lot of time not only peering at the wooden plank in my eye but hammering nails in as I constructed a gargantuan tree house of lies, one mistaken truth impaling me at a time.

Here are some doosey misconceptions that made my list…
A good mom…has Band-Aids in her purse at all times.
A good mom…joins the PTO and attends every meeting.
A good mom…never has laundry stacked in piles that rival architectural wonders.
A good mom…doesn’t yell…ever.
A good mom…bakes realistic-looking animal and caricature cakes she found on Pinterest for her children’s birthday parties.

And then there’s the other pesky side of this list…
A bad mom…doesn’t know the lyrics to the shanty Sponge Bob Square Pants because why would she let her kids watch that show?
A bad mom…doesn’t stab herself in the finger, creating a blood-spurting hole while trying to separate Lego guy’s hair from his mini-Lego head with tweezers.
A bad mom…would never shove a bunch of pennies and loose change in an envelope when sending in money to her child’s class for end of the year teacher gifts.
A bad mom…wouldn’t be caught dead sprinting to slather coconut oil on a patch of psoriasis on her child’s leg, delaying the bus.
A bad mom…cannot for the life of her recount the names of the other students in her child’s class.

I had this list.

And if, by some fluke, I ever caught you doing or not doing one of the above, it might surprise you that I refrained from judgment. At least I didn’t judge in the way you’re thinking. I liked you—instantly. Inside I smiled because I just became a little more normal—more human. And you, in all your you-glory, helped me believe in grace again. Helped me to believe every time one of these tweezed out ideas flashed like a neon sign in my head that lists like these are pure malarkey.

I eventually found my way to the end of the list maze.

Know where I landed?

A good mom…loves her kids.
A bad mom…withholds love from her kids.

Want to know what I did with those other cockamamie lists?

I mixed the ingredients of a boxed Betty Crocker cake, baked it, shoved the little particles of good mom/bad mom thoughts between the spongy goodness, slapped some icing on the top, devoured the whole whopping ooey gooey cake pan, then I let it pass through me.

And now those lists are gone.

And I’m not about to go looking for them.

Have you ever done yourself a disservice by believing in a fabricated and skewed list as you tried to live well in a specific role in your life? 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

“It’s How I Stay Sane”

I’ve never known how to answer people when they ask, “How is it possible you’ve written so many

I stare blankly, scrunch my nose, then smile with that awkward over-animated frog face I make sometimes. Eventually, I come up with some goofy answer like “It’s what I do” or “My brain is crowded and it helps me get some ideas out.” I enjoy responding with a wink and a healthy bout of sarcasm. Ah…why we do what we do.

Not long ago, I heard the real answer. It came without pretense. I was, ironically enough, asking another mom and friend from the soccer team how she runs so many marathons (not to mention how she finals with crazy fast times). The woman is my hero. Before a game one day, she took off sprinting at the far end of the field in order to squeeze in a run. I had to double check with another parent on the sidelines that I wasn’t seeing things. I’m talking Road Runner fast.

I pulled this endurance guru aside and asked it straight, “How do you run like you do? What’s your motivation?”

She laughed. Then, without any added explanation, this mom of four young girls admitted, “It’s how I stay sane.”

Say no more. I got it.

I get it.

Call it an outlet, a passion, our oxygen, a stress reliever, a calling, or a vocation. Call it what you will, but I understand this intense level of commitment as a road to sanity.

Protecting the mind. Nourishing the soul. Counterbalancing all the grating and ugly we rub up against during our days here.

Every time I sit to write I’m restoring, reconciling—reinstating sanity. I’m making sense of a senseless world if only by piecing together letter after letter. Word by word. It’s healing for me—this practice of rolling out words like a red carpet, smashing them like an angry kid stomping on a sandcastle, stringing sentences along like fresh linen whipping in the breeze on a clothesline.

So, sure, there are plenty of reasons why I write and keep writing.

But I bet you can guess my latest response to inquiries regarding my commitment to writing.

Sanity, it’s a good thing.

How about you—do you have something you pour yourself into that ends up replenishing your sanity?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...