Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

The Middle Age


I’m going to be 50 years old in a little over a month, and for the past few months I’ve been getting acclimated to the idea. Like on a hot day, when you have to ease yourself slowly into the cold water of the swimming pool. The feet go first, and it feels good, and you think this won’t be so bad. Then, when you step down deeper, the water reaches your knees and gives you a shock. You shiver a little bit but as you stand there you realize you can handle it.  But you know what’s coming. You put it off for as long as you can, but you can’t stand on the steps in the shallow end forever, so you take the next step, and the water covers your backside and all the air whooshes out of your body and you close your eyes and concentrate on how good it will feel eventually. The last part is the hardest – lowering yourself fully into the pool so that the cold water covers your chest and your head. Holding your breath, you force yourself under and hold there for a few moments. Then you surface and suddenly you feel fantastic! The water is amazing – silky and suddenly warm and lovely on your skin. You kick off towards the deep end wondering why it took you so long get in.

That’s how I feel about turning 50. I’m up to my knees, holding off the inevitable, but knowing that as soon as I fully embrace the idea it’s going to be amazing.

These big birthdays always bring out the contemplative me, and I like to look back on my life to see what I’ve done (and not done). This one is no different, but I find myself looking more at the small moments than the big life changing ones. If I had to guess why that is, my guess would be that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become far more interested in what lies ahead of me than what has gone before. This has been a gradual, but seismic, shift in my thinking, and one that I welcome. I read a quote on the internet today that was so true it made me gasp: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.” I have come to accept my past, the good and the bad, and now I’m looking forward to this next phase of my life with tremendous anticipation.

Life here in the Middle Ages has gotten really good. Not that I’m more financially successful than I’ve ever been – I’m not. What’s different is that I’ve finally stopped measuring my success by how much money I make or how glamorous my job is. And even more importantly, I’ve stopped listening to people who keep score that way.

I am, more than any time since my college days, figuring out who I am and what I want. I am becoming more myself as each day passes, and, what is more, I am learning how not to be afraid of that. I have opened myself to accept the love and grace that God/the Universe (or whatever you want to call the Divine Spirit that inhabits us all) wants to give me. I accept the gifts that are beginning to shower on me, and I embrace the unexpected miracles to come.

I am also meditating on the notion that I can have the life I want right now. There is no idealized past or unrealized future that is as tangible as the here-and-now of my life today. When I get that in my head and in my heart, I am free to fully inhabit myself, to love extravagantly, and to be truly at peace. If this is what it means to be middle aged, I’m good with that.

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Looking for the Truth


I called my mother on my way home from work the other day, as I do at least once a week. She’s my best friend, and talking with her usually lifts my spirits and helps me see through the fog that clouds my vision sometimes. But this conversation was different. I found myself unable to stop venting about my feelings about the recent election, even though I had promised myself I wouldn’t talk about it when I hit the speed dial for her number. As I ranted and raved I could tell that all I was doing was making my dear sweet mother more and more uncomfortable – and she and I agree on most things. I felt awful when I hung up, because I knew my outburst had caused her grief, and that’s the last thing I ever want to do. She was upset because I was upset, and because there was absolutely nothing she, or anyone, could do about it.

I have struggled to find the words to express how I feel about the insanity that seems to have gripped me and almost everyone I know since the election. In the past I’ve been able to shake off those people who feel that they have to stridently voice and defend their political beliefs pretty easily – I simply ignore them. Being able to block people on Facebook has been a real blessing, as I’ve been able to keep certain people in my life who constantly rail against the evils of the “other side” because I don’t have to fucking listen to them. And I’m talking about people on both sides of these issues.

A few weeks before the election I unfollowed one of my oldest and dearest friends whose relentless political posting was driving me nuts. After I did that I found that my thoughts about this person, which had been trending towards the negative, returned to normal. I have since resumed following that person, but I’ve started to regret it as the rhetoric hasn’t chilled. This person has said that there is a certain issue that is totally unacceptable to them, and if any of any their friends support this particular thing, well, that that’s the end. They can no longer be friends with anyone who is on the wrong side of this line they’ve drawn. The thing is, I’m so far over that line that I wouldn’t make that cut, and I’m pretty sure my friend knows it, which makes me wonder if it’s not the having of the belief that is so offensive, but the sharing of it. I guess the only reason we’re still connected is that I’ve kept my online mouth shut about my beliefs. This line in the sand mentality from someone I have always loved grieves me more than I can say, and I’ve found myself alternatively wanting to put the ultimatum to the test – would you really unfriend me? – and doing what I’ve always done, which is disagreeing in silence.

We’re all so convinced we’re right. We’re all so convinced we know the truth. We’re all so convinced the other side is wrong that we’re refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees with us. And it is this conviction, much more than the actual differences of opinion, that will tear us apart.

The day you stop wondering if you’ve really got it all figured out is the day you stop growing and learning. It is the day you stop being able to empathize with people who are unlike you.

It is the day you make yourself God.

Not questioning why you believe what you believe is the height of hubris. If you are a person of faith, God does not require you to stop questioning; quite the opposite. “Ask and the answer will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” If you think you’ve got all the answers, ask yourself this question: Where are the answers coming from? Did another person give you the answer? Or did you, with humility and a genuinely open heart and mind, go to your creator, or the universe, or whomever you turn to for guidance – and ask? Or have you already decided that you know what God, or the universe, or whomever, thinks?

I try to question the things I believe and the assumptions I make. When I find myself taking a strong stance on something, I hold it up and I ask these questions:

“Why do I believe this is true?”

“Is it possible that I’m wrong?”

“Does this belief promote love and compassion for others, even those who disagree with me?”

If you won’t ask yourself these questions and accept the answers, whatever they may be, then you have chosen to deceive yourself. And just to be clear, that is a choice. But instead of pretending that isn’t the case, you should own your choice. You should proudly stand up and say “I don’t actually care if what I believe is based on misleading or false information or if what I believe causes pain to others – I’ve decided to believe it.” I see people on both sides doing exactly this, and it’s more terrifying to me than anything else that has come out of this horrible election.

I’m not asking everyone to gather in a circle and sing a song. We’re light years away from that. What I do ask – what I beg – is that everybody step off and take a breath. Stop feeling so self-righteous, and so determined to bludgeon the disbelievers into submission. Just stop. It’s not helping. It’s hurting you and everyone around you. And for what? So you can be right?

Is being right more important to you than your family and your friends? Are you willing to destroy lifelong relationships because you believe with your whole heart that you’re right and they’re wrong? Why?

Look, I get what’s at stake here, and I get just as caught up in it as anyone else – I’m not immune, or above it, or better than anyone else when it comes to things that are important to me that I feel are being threatened. I promise you that I will live my convictions and stand up for the kind of world I want this world to be.

But I’m not going to fool myself into believing that I have all the answers. I don’t. I don’t even know where to start on some of this stuff. So I will continue to hold my beliefs up to the light, and if they don’t pass the test, I will, with an open mind, continue to look for the truth. Even if I don’t like what I find.

And my friends, the one thing I am sure of is that the only truth worth knowing is love. And loving someone means you accept them no matter what they do or say. It’s the hardest thing you can do sometimes, but it’s the only thing that matters. Or so I believe.

Peace be with you.


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On Being Discouraged


“Sometimes I wonder if this is worth the struggle. Sometimes I wonder if this is worth the fight. I never have made my mind up about it; I’ve just decided to let it all ride.” – Tom Petty, Deliver Me, from the album Long After Dark

I’ve had a problem concentrating lately. I can still get my work done, yes, but it’s a constant battle to keep focused on what I need to do and not allow myself to stare off into space, letting my mind roam around from topic to topic. This has been happening a lot, and one of the things that keeps running through my head is this song. It’s one of my favorites by Tom Petty, without whom I would have never made sense of much of my life. I owe that man a debt, and now I’m wondering why I can’t shake this song. It’s there when I get up in the morning, as I drive to and from work, and in the moments between active thought. So I finally decided not to let it ride, but to try and figure out what the soundtrack in my mind is telling me.

So I sat down and started scribbling the first things that came into my head. I listed them out, bullet-point fashion. I was as honest as I could be about how I’m thinking and feeling right now, knowing that my thoughts and feelings can change in an instant in response to either good or bad news, or an unexpected phone call from a friend, or having one of the endless plots I conjure for my own amusement pan out. Or not.

When I got down to the end of the list, I wrote “I am so discouraged.”

When I read that back to myself I hear a very loud voice in my head say “You don’t deserve to be discouraged. Look at everything that’s going right in your life. With all of the suffering and pain in the world, you have NO PROBLEMS.” Which is true.

Then another voice, which is yelling at me as I write this, is saying “And you can’t post a blog about how discouraged you are – think about the people who may read it! Your family! Your friends! They might get upset that you feel this way and even possibly get upset at you! How can you put them through that, for your own egotistical, selfish need for – what? Validation? Consolation? Commiseration?” But then I figure that y’all will get over it. So I press on.

I took a look at that word: Discouraged. When you break it down into its parts, the word becomes “dis-couraged”. Which, to me, means being robbed of your courage, of your ability to fight off the demons who would have their way with you. In the battle against fear, being discouraged means you’re losing.

“Cour” also means heart, which explains why a synonym of “discouraged” is “disheartened”. So in this context, losing heart is the same thing as losing courage. Does our courage come from our hearts? I always thought of having courage as having “guts”, which would put the seat of courage in the belly region. But now it makes more sense to me to think of courage as stemming from the place that holds our capacity for love. And if the opposite of love is fear, which I believe, then the idea of being “discouraged” is actually a lack of love and a prevalence of fear.

So I’m not discouraged after all. I’m afraid.

This makes more sense to me. Fear isn’t rational, and it doesn’t respond to pep talks. It is an insidious force that invades your mind and heart and squeezes out all the love and light, replacing it with things like anger, resentment, hopelessness, despair. And it mostly runs in the background, unnoticed, until a triggering event that brings it straight to the forefront, at which point you either give in because it’s been undermining your defenses for ages, or you fight.

So that’s what Tom has been trying to tell me. I’ve been giving in, letting it all ride, because the fear has convinced me that it isn’t worth the struggle. It says “You won’t win. You never win. Just give up.”

Well, anyone who knows me knows how I respond to messages like that. It doesn’t end well for the messenger.

I’m happy to say that this little dive into my psyche has been helpful. Having named my enemy I am better equipped to combat it. If I can get back to the sure and certain knowledge that whatever happens I am loved and not alone, I will win. And I will.

Thanks for listening. And stay strong. Don’t listen to the fear. Love yourself, love your people. It’s the only thing that matters.

photo credit: symphony of love Sir Winston Churchill Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm via photopin (license)

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Happy Birthday?


Well, hello there. It’s been a few months. I told you I probably wouldn’t be writing any more posts on this blog, but the need has been growing and I can no longer resist.

There’s a lot to say, and nothing to say. But I’m going to say it anyway.

My 49th birthday was yesterday. It was a great day for me. I heard from many, many friends and family during the day. I took the day off from work and spent it with my sweet husband, doing things I enjoy. Then we had a lovely dinner with some great friends, and my sister came, which made it just that much more special. So I feel prepared for the staring contest with 50 that officially begins today. Bring it, half century. I got this.

At the same time I feel a little weird about celebrating when there is so much awful going on in the world. As I sat in the crowded restaurant eating and drinking and laughing, thousands of my fellow citizens were protesting (peacefully, thank God) the disconnect between “All Men are Created Equal” and the unequal treatment a large percentage of these men and women are subjected to, every day of their lives.

I don’t believe that people should give up their celebrations when things like this are going on. It is as important to express joy as it is to stand up to injustice, and I don’t feel guilty about it. What I do feel is a terrible sense of helplessness, and of inadequacy.

I read post after post on Facebook, article after article in newspapers and magazines, and listened to all the voices raised in this collective howl of frustration and impotent rage, and I wonder if I should add my voice. I suppose this post is evidence of what I finally chose.

I don’t actually have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, and said well, by others. I don’t have any new wisdom, or brilliant insight, or magic words that will make it all make sense and show us the path forward. I wish I did.

What I do have is a renewed sense of the importance of saying SOMETHING.

So, this is what I have to say:

  • I believe that racism is real, institutionalized, and rampant in our country.
  • I believe that racism will never go away until the majority of white people who abhor racism actually DO something about it, and not just assume that because they don’t actively hate black people that there isn’t a problem.
  • I believe that denying racism is racist, and I have been very disappointed to see some of the people I know buying into this dangerous lie.

The thought that any of the black men I know – these smart, talented, creative, successful, loving men – could be shot at any time for no reason is intolerable.

I have to do SOMETHING.

There have been some good things written about what white people can do to help. This is one of those things – speak up.

I never engage in casual racist talk. Sometimes I even try to point it out. I can do better than that. I will be more vocal in the future.

I will look for other ways to help. I will start being part of the solution, however I can.

You hear the phrase “Be the change you want to see”. It may sound like a cliché, but it is a profound truth. We don’t often get to make the big gestures, but we can always make the small ones, and sometimes that’s enough to soften a hard heart.

This is me, a white girl, stepping up. For my friends. For myself. For everyone.

photo credit: gc366day125 via photopin (license)

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Turn the Page

Turn the Page Large

I like to think of the story of my life in terms of chapters. There’s Childhood, which encompasses everything up to the start of 6th grade. Then there’s Junior High, then High School, then College, and then the Alliance Theatre (my one and only professional theatre job). Then came The Lost Years – that strange, meandering gap of time between 1990 and 1993, when I went to Paralegal school and did the only really serious partying of my life (and it wasn’t all that serious, not really). In the fall of 1993 began the IRT, Down Right, and Stage Door Players years when I was working full time during the day and doing theatre pretty much the rest of the time. Then in 1995 my husband-to-be entered the picture, and 1997 began the chapter I call The First Three Years of Marriage. 2000 – 2003 was Grad School, 2004 to mid-2005 was Recovering from Grad School and Looking for a Better Job, and in August of 2005 started the CoreNet chapter. There’s some good stuff in there, but in June of 2010 it came suddenly to a close. The next chapter was Trying Desperately to be Self-Employed, subchapters of which are called ATB Meeting Design, How We Work, and Moventus. You can’t say I didn’t try.

And now I’m here, at the end of one chapter and the beginning of yet another.  I don’t know what this chapter will be called, since I don’t know what’s going to happen or how it will end, but for now I’m thinking of it as the Going Back to a Regular Job. I’m hoping that early subchapters will be titled Getting Out of Debt and Going on Vacation for the First Time in Four Years. Certainly the themes of Remembering How to Get Up in the Morning, The Daily Commute, and Lunch – Bring or Go Out? are ones I’ve been exploring my first week at the new job. Also important has been Remembering What I Used to Know about Commercial Real Estate. It’s coming back to me, I’m happy to report. I figured it would, I just didn’t know how long it would take.

But before I turn the page on the last chapter of my life and start writing the new one, I wanted to look back at this incredible time and be grateful for what it has done for me. Yes, it’s been hard, and yes, ultimately it wasn’t sustainable, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of it. Not even the really bad ones. So, here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned:

I’m More Resilient than I Had Ever Imagined

I won’t say I’m “tough” – that implies that I’m not breakable. I’m not fragile, but I am breakable, and I did break, into a thousand sharp pieces that took a very long time to glue back together. In the process some of those pieces didn’t fit anymore, so when I came back together I was different. More able to withstand shocks. More comfortable with uncertainty. More secure in my own skin. Less needful of others’ approval. Much more patient. There were days when I thought I would never see the sun again, but I did, and I know now for a fact that no matter how dark it is today, no matter how overwhelming your grief is today, no matter how hopeless you feel today, that one day it will be better. You just have to hold on.

I am an Artist

I’ve written about this more than once, so please reference my published works for more detail if you wish, but for the first time in my life I have fully embraced the truth that in my core I am a Writer and a Theatre Person. Years ago I turned my back on the theatre to do other things. I will never do that again. I will also never not write. I am a writer. It’s who I am.

The Money Always Comes

My biggest fear in life is not having enough money to pay the bills, and I have stared into the gaping black hole of that fear over and over and over again these past years. But here I sit, in my house and not in a cardboard box under a bridge, and I think sometimes that it’s a miracle how that can be true. But it is, and I know that for reasons that have very little to do with the rational world, the money I’ve needed has always been there when I needed it. Can’t explain it, don’t want to.

If it doesn’t Make You Burn with Passion, Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I hung on to the dream of self-employment for as long as I did for a lot of reasons. Some of them were good reasons, some not so good. But the truth is I wasn’t trying to forge that career path out of a burning desire to do that kind of work. And it showed, in the end. I tried, but I know it showed. So, my loving advice to you is this: don’t try to go it alone for anything less than the pursuit of your life’s work. It’s too hard if you don’t love it with everything you’ve got.

I am Content

I’ve been a restless person my whole life. I still strive to be better at the things that are important to me – my work, my writing, the theatre, my friendships, my marriage. But for the first time since childhood I am completely content with my life as it is right now. I am overwhelmed with blessings. I have a wonderful husband who I love and who loves me. I still have both of my parents and I treasure my relationships with them. My sister is my best friend. I have a theatre family that is a constant source of joy and belonging. I have a snug home, affectionate cats, and a car that runs. And now I have a job working with some super nice people doing work I enjoy for a wage that won’t make me rich but will damn sure keep me from feeling anxious about my finances. I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning feeling grateful, and humble, and so very aware of just how good I’ve got it. I have more than enough.


The title of this blog is “Every Day is Saturday: the Joy and Heartache of Working for Myself from Home”. Given that the title no longer reflects this chapter of my life, this will be my last regular post under this title. I may start a new one; I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I have been so moved by your support and encouragement over the years. You are one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been able to see myself as a writer. I am more grateful than I can ever say.

So, I wish all the best to all of you on your own journeys. I hope you find your passion, and your contentment.

Amanda Taylor Brooks

January 31, 2016


photo credit: I, Right via photopin (license)






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Getting In the Mood

Christmas Cocktail

You know, sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I’m busy with work, I’m distracted, or I’m worried about this or that. I’m just not into it. No matter how much I know I’ll enjoy it once it starts, it’s getting going that can be the hardest part, you know? I have to grit my teeth and force myself to take that first step. I know if I could just relax it would be easier, but I’m having a hard time letting go.

I’ve tried, I really have. I wear the special clothes, I have the right accessories. The room is all done up nice. I’m going through the motions, but I just can’t seem to capture that special feeling.

I can’t seem to get into the Christmas spirit. Santa’s just not doing it for me. Not yet, anyway.

My tree is up. The stockings are hung. I’ve done most of my shopping (yes, online, I’m a horrible person, but Amazon Prime is the bomb!). The Christmas cards are all written and addressed and mailed. I’ve baked two batches of cookies that are so good I’m regretting that I’m going to give them all away (Scrooge much?).  I’ve even broken out my seasonal slop-around-the-house sweatshirt, the one that says “Noel” with the red ribbons on it that’s two sizes too big. You would think all that would be enough to have me humming “Holly Jolly Christmas” all day, but, alas, no.

Maybe it’s being stuck in the house that has kept me from catching the Christmas bug. I haven’t been much of anywhere except the grocery store for a few days, and the guy with the bell outside just gives me a headache. I did feel a twinge looking at the Starbuck’s Christmas Blend coffee – there’s something about that stuff that brings out images of crackling fires and warm blankets and good books and cuddling that is distinctly Christmas-y.

Maybe it’s the 70 degree weather we’re having here in Hot-lanta. But really, that’s not all that unusual here, not at all. We Atlantans know how to pretend we’re living in a winter wonderland in spite of the shorts and flip-flops temperatures in December!

I’m not sure what’s keeping me from feeling all goose-pimply and excited.

I love Christmas. I love the little traditions my husband and I have, the rituals we perform every year. I love giving presents. I love the plays and the concerts we attend. I love the annual parties, where we see friends we don’t see at any other time of the year. I love getting together with my family for a big meal and tons of laughter.

I suppose I could get out of the house and go to the mall. I could wander around and look at all the stuff for sale, and the decorations, and listen to fifteen different versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” playing over the loudspeakers in the department stores. But I don’t know – the older I get the more the buy-buy-buy frenzy turns me off. It’s out of control.

I miss my high school chorus. This was the time of year when we sang all of the Christmas music – sacred and secular – we’d been rehearsing since September. We went to the malls and sang, we had a school concert, and we sang in area churches on Sunday nights. The feeling of being a part of that group, making beautiful music together, was (and still is) a highlight of my life. To this day, nothing has made me feel more in the spirit than a rousing rendition of the “Carol of the Bells” or the quiet simplicity of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Such great memories.

And there’s this – it’s hard for me to get in the mood when I’m surrounded by so much suffering and endless need. This year, as I have done for the past few years through my church, I will buy a gift for a child who may not otherwise have any presents to open because at least one (and sometimes both) of their parents is incarcerated. The greetings the prisoners send to their children, written on the gift tags by someone else, probably a stranger, are heart breaking. “Daddy loves you!” The periods of personal poverty that I complain about are nothing compared to these families, and my contributions, while sincerely made, feel hopelessly inadequate. All I can do is this much, and I pray that it makes a difference, even if it’s for only one child. Surely that’s worth a few dollars. I’m just grateful that I have the means to do it.

That’s it, though, isn’t it? I’m not going to find the Christmas spirit under the tree or in my stocking. It’s where it always has been, in the gratitude I feel for what I already have. I have so, so much.  There’s nothing I can buy that will make my life any better than it already is now. So I’ll focus on the love and joy in my life and marvel at how lucky I am, and how blessed.

The rest is just gravy and trimmings.

photo credit: Holiday Cheer via photopin (license)

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On the Verge

Cliff Edge

Today is the day we prepare to launch ourselves head first into the “holiday season”, which, in my book, has always meant those weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending on the first Monday in the New Year when I pretend I’m still working but I’m really not. Not much, anyway. As little as possible.

Oh I know, we’re all still “at work”, but what are we doing, really? Between the increasingly infrequent emails, the meetings that suddenly get cancelled, and the conference calls that no one shows up for, aren’t we really shopping online or arranging lunches/drinks/dinner/brunch with as many friends as possible before Christmas, organizing our family get-togethers (who’s bringing the green bean casserole?), and trolling YouTube for funny cat/dog videos? ANYTHING but actually working. Well, ok, we have to do something work-related, if only to justify our paychecks, but out of a regular 8 hour work day maybe 2 hours gets spent on actual work – the rest is just filling time. Am I right?

Of course, now that I’m self-employed and work from home you’d think I’d have gotten over this mentality, right? Wrong. For some reason, even if there isn’t really anything to do (or anything that needs doing right away) I still find myself at my computer, standing by just in case I get an email from a client or a new task from one of my colleagues.  And while I’m waiting, I start “goofing off”, just like I used to do when I went into an office. And actually feeling guilty about it, which is beyond crazy.

I’m a contract worker. Once the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, I’m done. I can do what I please with my time. I get paid for the work I do, not a certain number of hours in the day. And I am extremely close to being done with my contracted work this year. A few odds and ends, and that’s it! There’s some non-client-related stuff we need to do before the end of the year, and we will, but honestly, unless something changes, I’m looking at a very quiet December, work-wise.

So what will I do with my time? Hmmm . . .

  • I’ll bake a lot of cookies and give them as gifts. I did that last year and it was fun.
  • I’ll get my house in order. There are some cobwebs in places that have been there way too long.
  • I’ll read books.
  • I’ll work on stuff for my theatre company; we’ve got exciting plans for next year!
  • I’ll do things that make me happy, like listen to music and look up new recipes to try.
  • I’ll go to parties and concerts and movies and plays with my sweet hubby.
  • I’ll spend more time with my family.
  • I’ll do some writing (see, I’ve already started!)

Mostly, I’ll try to find the quiet in the middle of the holiday frenzy to be present, and to acknowledge how astonishingly blessed I am. I am loved, and I love. In this harsh world we live in, to love and be loved is an extravagance that millions of people can’t even imagine. When I think about that, my “problems” become very small indeed, and the simple joy of baking cookies or sitting down in the peace of my home to read a book seems luxurious.

So here, on the verge of the madness, stop and take a breath. Close your eyes. If you have love in your life, be thankful for it. It’s the only thing that matters, because it’s the only thing that will endure. Everything else can be taken away, even life itself, but the love you have given and the love you have received will always be there, waiting for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

photo credit: Cliff via photopin (license)

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Dazed and Confused

feet in sand

If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling a bit unstable these days. Like walking on a sandy beach with the tide going out; what you’ve been standing on – that seemed so firm – is disappearing from under you, and you start to wobble. That’s how I feel, anyway.

We live in a crazy world. Awful things happen daily, and we’re subjected to a non-stop onslaught of hatred and fear and death on our televisions and radios, from friends and acquaintances on Facebook, in our Twitter feeds, on the front pages of newspapers and magazines. The world is screaming at us all the time that we are not safe, that gigantic, unstoppable forces hate us and are out to get us and there’s nothing we can do about it because our government is weak and our leaders incompetent. It’s the background music of our lives, and recently the volume has been turned way, way up. It’s drowning out everything else.

I’m not going to go on a rant here; there’s too much of that going on already. I don’t think it’s helpful, and sometimes I think it can be actively harmful to us to listen to too much ranting. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the emotions and forget that there is good in the world. It’s so easy. I have a hard time fighting it, too, and I find myself getting outraged by the messages I see coming at me from everywhere. It’s overwhelming.

I’ve been reluctant to write anything at all about the “current state of affairs”; if you want to know what I think, ask me in person (preferably over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine) and I’ll tell you. There’s too much room for misunderstanding in this format. And I have too many friends with opposing viewpoints to feel comfortable sharing my opinions here. I love all of my friends, and it grieves me to see so much hostility coming from both “sides”.

And honestly, what are these “sides” anyway? Don’t we all want the same thing? To live in peace and harmony, to be protected from the bad behavior of others while at the same time maintaining our right to self-determination? I’m sure there are those who prefer that we stay at war, for their own profit, and that’s sickening. But I don’t think I personally know any of those people. I also don’t think I’m going to persuade anyone to lay down their deeply held convictions and open their hearts to at least hear someone else’s perspective. I wish I could, but I can’t.

My friends, the world we live in isn’t safe. It never has been, and it never will be. Your home could be destroyed in a tornado, or a flood. You or someone you love could be killed in a car crash today. Someone could walk into the restaurant where you’re enjoying your dinner and open fire. A teenager with an assault rifle and a grudge could shoot your child as she sits in a classroom. There is no safety, anywhere.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do to deal with the insanity coming at us from all sides; plenty of others are already doing that. All I can tell you is what I will do:

  • I will stop watching the news.
  • I will go outside and look at the sky.
  • I will pursue my passions diligently.
  • I will pet my cats.
  • I will read a good book.
  • I will go to a play.
  • I will cook tasty meals.
  • I will travel.
  • I will give to charity.
  • I will pray without ceasing.
  • I will love my family, my friends, and people who piss me off.
  • I will be grateful for the extraordinary life I have been given.
  • I will do my best to be kind to everyone.

This is my act of defiance: I will enjoy life. I will seek out the good. I will refuse to be afraid, or angry, or outraged. Life is too short, and I get to choose how to spend the time I have. I choose Joy.

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A Writer Writes

Typewriter and coffee large

My life, whilst awesome, has been in overdrive for a number of months now, and even though I’ve been struck repeatedly by great ideas for blog posts I haven’t allocated the time to write any of them down. And after so much time, all the possibilities piled up and up and I had no idea where to start, so I didn’t. Until today.

What’s so special about today? Oh I don’t know. I just decided that I would re-shuffle my priority list and put this on top. Not that my priority list is all that long at the moment, which is a big change from where I’ve been for some time now. Let me explain – no, it’s too much. Let me sum up:

  • Since early June I’ve been either in rehearsal or production of a play (for those who don’t remember, I’m a stage manager and a board member for a local theatre company), which means that I was out of the house pretty much every night for months;
  • My wedding anniversary and birthday happened;
  • Work has been VERY busy with deadlines;
  • I took three work-related trips in August/September, in the middle of all of that rehearsing and performing;
  • I had the honor of stage managing a dear friend’s wedding;
  • Lalalalalaonandonandon . . . .

There’s been no time to quietly reflect on all the thoughts that have been running around in my head, and any downtime I got I spent on the couch watching television in a vegetative state. There really are just so many productive hours in the day, and once the power supply in my little brain got all used up, I was done. I couldn’t make myself wax eloquent after one of those marathon days, so, no writing for me.

I’m surprised how much I’ve missed it. I mean, I’ve been over-feeding my muse lately, right? All this theatre must have filled any possible artistic void in my soul, right? Apparently not. I’ve been itching to sit here and do this, and I’m really happy right now, clacking away.

Don’t misunderstand – I am a theatre person. It isn’t just what I do, it is incorporated into my cells, hammered onto my brain, burned deep within my heart. What a fool I was to think I could live and be happy without it. Idiot. Well, I know better now.

But writing has always been part of me, too. My father just sent me a photo album of pictures of me as a child, and he included a stack of papers that he’s held onto – some of my report cards, some pictures I drew, birthday cards I made. But the things that blew me away were the bits of writing. I was quite the poet from a very early age. There’s also one page from the play I wrote (and directed and starred in) that I made the neighborhood kids perform in our garage. I’m sorry to say that my handwriting hasn’t significantly improved. These things amazed me, not because they were any good (they weren’t), just the fact of them – I did that, I wrote those things. I had the impulse to do that.

I know I’ve said this many times, but I’ve never seen myself as a writer, which seems ridiculous given all the evidence to the contrary. I wrote as a child. My skill at writing has always been a safe haven for me in the business world. I’ve written articles for which I have been paid – the very definition of a professional writer. I’ve been working on a novel. I have a blog.

And this happened – my alma mater printed a blog post I wrote after a Homecoming weekend two years ago in their alumni magazine. So there it is, out there, with my name on it. More evidence that I should be able to call myself a writer.

But can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write? I think at the end of the day that’s my biggest hang up. I feel like a phony, calling myself a writer and not writing (creatively, that is) every day. I can’t say to people “Yes, I’m working on thus-and-so” because most of the time I’m not. I’m too busy doing everything else – or at least I think I’m too busy. Which is the same thing.

I daydream about taking a week off and locking myself in a cabin in the woods to finish my novel. I’d really like to get the damn thing done, to get it out of me so I can move on. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I can’t see it happening, though – always too much to do. I’m self-employed, so there’s no such thing as paid time off. No work, no pay (or at least that’s how it feels). So, again, no writing for me.

I think about the story of Stephen King, how he wrote Carrie on a typewriter he balanced on his lap sitting in the tiny laundry room in his tiny home. That’s commitment. That’s dedication. Compared to that, I’m a total hack, a journeyman, at dabbler at best.

I am convinced that to be successful at anything creative – painting, dancing, acting, writing – you have to do it, every day. I know this to be true. I’ve written about it myself. This is why sometimes very talented people don’t “make it”, and why lesser-talented people sometimes do. It is a basic human struggle between action and inaction, and success cannot be measured in dollars. Although we are promised that if you follow your passion, the money will follow. I’m not sure that’s true – I know several dedicated, talented artists who have completely committed themselves to their artistic pursuits who haven’t achieved this promised success. At least not yet. I admire these people. Their dedication inspires and intimidates me, but their financial struggles give me pause.

So what does all this mean for me? No idea. I will probably continue to want to call myself a writer but believe I’m a phony until I can find a way to write every day, which will always be a challenge. That won’t change.

I also know that writing occupies a separate, important part of myself that I wasn’t aware of until I took this extended break. There’s a void that only writing can fill. I can’t easily ignore it any longer.

All I can say for sure is that today is a new day, and I have a chance to start over. I’ve written a blog post today. That’s a good start.
photo credit: Remington via photopin (license)

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Of Fear, Love and Writing

WritingI have never considered myself to be a creative person.  I have been a singer, but not a musician.  I have acted, but never ever thought of myself as an actor.  I inherited none of my father’s ability to draw and paint.  I’m a good cook, a competent (but not brilliant) photographer, and at a very young age I knew I could have been a decent dancer if I had kept at it, but I did not.  Even with all of these pursuits I never thought of myself as an artist of any stripe.  In my mind, artists were the ones whose gift was obvious, their talent undeniable.  When I compared myself to people I thought of as artists, I believed I was not one of them.

In college I discovered stage management as a discipline, and the first time I heard the term “theatrical technician” I knew I’d found myself.  What a perfect description of me – the practical one who kept the creative types’ feet on the ground.  I could stay connected to the world I loved, but I never had to reveal myself.  I could hide in plain sight, no one the wiser – except for one professor who saw right through me, and who I knew I’d disappointed.  I managed to push the shame of that aside and soldier on, convinced I had finally found my calling.

I was always a good writer, but not of stories or poems.  I strongly believed that I had no gift for creative writing; any attempts I made to write stories in high school were, in my opinion (and that of my English teacher) unsuccessful.  And being the person that I have always been, if I couldn’t be great at something I just wasn’t interested in doing it at all.  I was used to things I wanted coming easily to me.  If I perceived my goal to be too far away I would abandon it in favor of something more easily achieved.   Struggling for my art was not something I wanted to do, which is why I ultimately abandoned all creative pursuits one by one.  Eventually I even stopped stage managing, and for years and years I’ve done nothing creative at all outside of the kitchen.  Which explains a lot.

Writing became a tool that I used to become successful at my non-creative pursuits.  It wasn’t a friend helping me find my way, it was a slave I bent to my will.  It was this way until my cozy life fell apart and writing became my counselor, my support and my confessor.  I wrote the words of my heart in the ink of my grief.  I wrote to catch hold of the pain and put it someplace outside of myself.  But the time came that I didn’t have to do that anymore to survive, so I stopped.

Now I find myself writing again, and for the first time in a very long time it is for the primary purpose of creating.  But even as I’ve taken the first few steps into this new world I find myself up to my old tricks – trying to find the easy way, allowing myself to be content with the early attempts, not stopping to dig too deeply.  Fortunately I’ve recognized this tendency before I’ve sabotaged myself, but the realization has forced the question: do I move ahead, knowing the difficulties that I will encounter, the time it will take, and the statistical probability that I will never make a comfortable living as a writer, or do I do what I’ve done so many times and give up before I even really get started?

I have been at this decision point before, and I have always chosen the path of least resistance.  Sometimes I was aware of the choice I was making, other times the opportunity to choose differently came and went so fast I didn’t see it until it was gone.  Most of the time I convinced myself I was making the “right” choice, even as I ignored that soft, gentle voice that said I was making a mistake.  This time, though, there don’t seem to be as many alternatives available.  It’s as if I’ve used up all of my excuses, and a stronger will is pulling me in, like being caught in a whirlpool or a tractor beam.

And I can feel myself changing.  Thoughts I haven’t had in years about who I am are appearing in my mind.  A sudden thirst for poetry has taken hold of me out of nowhere.  Ideas for stories I could write, ways of making the new memoir meaningful (not just entertaining), and fragments of poems I want to attempt are all jumping around inside my head, dying to get out.  I haven’t felt this energized in decades.  Not since I became afraid of making myself vulnerable, of showing the world who I am and who I was meant to be.  I’m falling in love again, with words and their beauty and mystery and power.  I’m still afraid; I’m not sure if that will ever change.  I’m just tired of letting it stop me.

photo credit: Writing via photopin (license)


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