To Honor the Failing Darkness

Vincent Van Gogh – Landscape in Stormy Weather

Trying new things is hard. Returning to old things is hard. Doing anything worth doing is probably hard. 😉

But as the darkness of ignorance falls away we become more comfortable, less afraid, less annoyed.  The new is always challenging, which is why we rush past it — getting to know that new boyfriend, wanting to ace that class, mastering that new exercise routine. Basically, we want to light up the new landscape and turn it into a comfortable old one as fast as possible.

I know. I’ve been trying a lot of new things (and new old things) these last couple of years — dating for the first time in over a decade, taking a screenwriting class after almost two decades away from that medium, trying a whole foods diet, wanting to start camping around Georgia, giving away 90% of my possessions, making secret BIG plans for 2019 (coming soon!)…every week I’m out of my comfort zone. It’s a challenge. I sometimes do want to wave a magic wand and be better — be great — at all this new stuff.

But honoring the darkness of not knowing even as it falls away, is important. The more comfortable I can be in this state of pre-knowing, the more I’m willing the return here. To try unusual things. To be willing to laugh at myself — when I fail, when I fall, even just when I have no freakin’ idea what I’m doing (Podcasting: “Hello, hello? Is this thing even on?”).

According to Wikipedia Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

I would argue that when starting something new, you should also have a ‘master’s calm’. You want to be open and learn but you also want to be in a place of joy and play and have faith in yourself. We often judge ourselves far more than other people do, and we’re embarrassed or ashamed when we make mistakes, when we fail. It seems hard-wired into our brains to look at a single failure as a reason to give up — “Oh well, I guess I’m just not good at that.” But the truth is that everyone really good at “that” practiced to get there. And even if you don’t want to become a master, you’ll be surprised how a few months could make you much more proficient.

from
skillshare.tumblr.com

When you can stand in the place of not knowing, not yet achieving, you honor your worth outside of your accomplishments. And then you feel less confined to what you already do well. I’m very good at my retail job, but it has nothing to do with who I want to be, or what I want to do in the long run. And so while it’s addictive to stand where you’re already lauded, is it ultimately fruitless if it is not your true home.

Better to step into the darkness, lost, the tiniest flame in your hands and the widest, wildest landscape before you. Better to fail at what you love. Better to succeed along the margins of your destiny. Better to honor yourself before others honor you. And to find peace in the nudging hours of the growing dawn instead of waiting for the riotous applause of the noonday sun.

Better to dance in the darkness and stumble and rise again. Better to join the stars in their magnificent twirl across the heavens.

Better.

Always better.

from
balletforadults.com

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How to Turn ’18 Up to ’11’

Hi! Good to see you; I know it’s been awhile ;-).

So, this year has been crazy. And awesome. Crazy-awesome? Yes. And I’ve wanted to get back to the website for a while but I’ve never found the perfect thing to say, the ideal reentry into the form. But… who cares? I’m just gonna jump back in, explain a little about what I’ve been doing this year, and package it in a way that hopefully inspires you to greatness this year too.

So, without further ado…

7 Ways to Turn ’18 Up to ’11’

from Oopsy Daisy

  • Set a goal that makes no sense. A year and a half ago, while eating mussels and drinking mimosas at George’s Lowcountry Grill in Athens, GA (highly recommended), my sister Sarah and I set a goal — almost more of an agreement. A goal to change everything, upset everything. And goal to move forward (a goal not quite ready to be revealed to the world in this post). Suffice to say, this goal could not coexist with the life we were living then. One facet involved getting rid of 50% of the items we owned. That’s been a huge change. For yourself, if small goals are not getting you where you want to go, it might be time for a crazy, audacious one.
  • Write out a list of everything you need to do in 2018 to accomplish that goal. My goal has three components — health, being a professional writer, and getting way down on possessions — so I wrote out about twelve categories and eventually 100 tasks in those categories, For example, one component is Less Stuff, a category within that is Mementos and and a task is getting down on the amount of personal papers I inherited from my mom. Clearing each task off the whiteboard is very meaningful to me and I only have about 56 tasks left on the board right now (a little behind schedule, but man — the progress I’ve made this year!).
  • Change the method. Over the last couple of years I’ve returned to my first love — screenwriting. I still enjoy novel-writing too but I’ve gotten very excited about learning more and working to bring characters to life on the screen. I’m not saying I wouldn’t make it as a novelist, but it felt like the right time to adjust my sails and find a fresh wind to push me toward my ultimate dream of being a ‘professional writer’. And it’s been so thrilling to learn through podcasts and web classes and books. I have advanced so much and feel closer than ever to my goals. So if you’re not making the progress you want, maybe change tactics and literally try a different approach.
  • Dump the Junk. Even if your goals have nothing to do with less stuff, please please consider spending a bunch of time deleting items from your house. It’s been to empowering and freeing to go through each room and purge. We’re following the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō and she insists on picking up every thing you own and seeing if it ‘sparks joy’. It works, and trust me, everything become easier, more fun, and more possible when your house and your life isn’t full of unneeded and unnecessary things.

Taken by the author

  • Go somewhere that changes everything. For years I’ve had a goal to see an old growth forest (very few remain east of the Mississippi River in the United States). And last year I settled on visiting Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina (Kilmer wrote the poem ‘Trees’). So this summer, on the way back from a family reunion, we finally stopped there and walked among 300+ year old poplar trees. It was a life-changing experience and made much of our day-to-day worries seem trifling and silly. That place now serves as an inspiration — my north star is a forest.
  • ‘Hell yes!’ or ‘Fuck no!’. As I’ve made all these big goals and devoted my time to reaching them, I have had to step away from other things. Even organizations you like, people you have fun with, and activities that you enjoy may need to be set aside (even blogs you enjoy writing!). The idea here is that — if you want to accomplish your goals — everything, everything in your life is either a ‘Hell yes’ or a ‘Fuck no’. There is no middle ground. This is an Android Jones quote, and if you see his art, you’ll understand what that level of passion and commitment gets you. I’ve kind of given up living a normal life right now and because of that, I’m living an extraordinary one.
  • Just do it. Imperfectly. Now. Most of the things I’ve been doing this year don’t feel timely — is now really the perfect moment to write this screenplay? Do I have the emotional reserves today to look through Mom’s old things and toss stuff? Is this the opportune period to network and meet real professionals? Isn’t like… 2019, or never, a better time? But as Lemony Snicket said, ‘If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.’

Are you don’t have the rest of your life to wait. The rest of your life is reserved for something better.

What Will You Do in 2018?

loveprintstudio.blogspot.dk

Few people recognize the symbolic value of the blank slate, the clean page, more than writers. Whether looking at our characters, our projects, or the actual blank page in front of us, we know that possibility is a magic few recognize in all its potency.

The idea of  ‘New Year’s goals’ has acquired a cynical sheen in today’s society — many of us make them either in bad faith or we softly snicker at those who create such plans and count down the days until that donut is eaten, or that new project is abandoned.

It is easier to laugh at our human shortcomings than to embrace the profound weight of our enduring strengths. Because, as Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I love that responsibility. I love the power you and I have to create a 2018 for the ages. A year from now you can be in disbelief about how much you have accomplished, and so can I. The question then is: How much do you love the beauty you have been given?

We are storytellers, artists, wordsmiths and teachers, and within us lie worlds undiscovered and un-shared. Be like your heroes and write the words coursing through your soul, share the stories and lessons shining from their private and scared alters, and act in the manner of the glorious and the gladdened. Whether you create for yourself, the world, or a host of angels, this year take up the actions of your heart — and take them seriously.

 The next 365 days are yours. You may dance in them, adventure through them, cry at their indescribable beauties and at their searing sorrows. Be challenged by them, taught by them, confounded by them — but they are yours.

They respond to you, to your beck and call, to your intentions and your actions. Under hard work, they bloom. Sprinkled with inspiration, they sparkle. Blessed with your faith and fanaticism, they will turn the next year into a paradise, a wonderland of exhaustion and excitement, of hard work and amazing victories, of goals sought and revelations found. There is nothing trivial — no meat for the cynic — in the land you and I are envisioning.

We see the beauty that is but the reflection of the seeker.

Diply

The successes of this new year will be built with strength, for inspiration, by dedication. The victorious will be the passionate and purposeful. They will illumine the Earth, and set the stars to jealousy.

Their work will realign the cosmos. Their journeys will become legend. The statues built in their honor will tower for a hundred years.

They will be you and me. We will be the prototypes of a new renaissance.

And when you share your vision with the world, the every one of us will see the beauty of this existence a little clearer.

I can’t wait.

B. Lovely Events

Upward and onward,

Katherine Cerulean

“Oh Penhallam, We Love You!” or, A Guide To How to Make the Next Six Months AMAZING


Saved by
屁 屁

So a few years ago I talked about the possibility of going to an elite academy to pursue the life of my dreams. And now, I’ve done it.

And you can too.

Because, you see, Penhallam Academy is made up. Not real. A fabrication of the mind. And yet here I sit, in class, learning, growing — writing. I just had breakfast (a lovely paleo sausage omelet), and the whole ‘school’ is beautiful, cleaner and more spacious than my home has ever been. And this is the first day of six months of dedication, learning, and being scored on how well I’m doing in working toward my dreams.

DO YOU WANT TO KICK BUTT IN 2017?

If you’re like a lot of us, you may have started 2017 with the best of intentions (and a champagne hangout). But let’s face it, January can be a terrible time to start a big change-your-life program. The weather’s lousy, water pipes tend to burst (or is it just mine?), and everybody’s sick for three out of the four weeks.

Honestly NOW is the best time to me. The weather’s great, flu season is over, and a six month plan still ends before the start of the holidays. So if your 2017 dreams are still in the incubator stage, don’t worry, you too can join a elite, prestigious take-no-crap academy that will make all your dreams come true. Don’t believe me? Watch this spot for the post six months from now.

from
cutewhenfrustrated.blogspot.com.au quote from ‘Treasure Planet’

What is Penhallam exactly?

For my sister and I, Penhallam Academy is a plan to act like we were given a scholarship to an amazing place of learning and accomplishment, one with an impressive and venerable record. You could also imagine your place as a writer’s retreat, boot camp, internship, artists colony, or anywhere else that is away from the world and has certain rules and/or expectations. Of course, I still have to go to work, but the rules still apply there (eating well, etc) and I still have to hit all my daily goals or classes when I get home.

Basically it’s a dare — if someone offered you the most amazing education, from a place where graduates went on to have a unbelievable success, would you go? Oh, but there’s one thing — you’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Would you be willing to struggle and strive from now through October if it meant you would be in the best place of your life — health-wise, career-wise, person-wise — in six months?

Only you can answer that. This is about all-in. This is about change your world forever. I’ve spoken to several people recently who have been undergoing that quarterlife/midlife crisis deal (myself included!). And to me, it really comes down to one question — who do you want to be for the rest of your life?

If you’re ready to dig deep, I’ll give you a step-by-step of how I got accepted into Penhallam and how you can too.

First stop — your dreams and goals

You have to know where you want to go, so you need a destination. Then you need a road map. There are many wonderful posts about goal setting (including mine) so we’ll skip that part here. The main idea is to find 3-5 goals from different areas of your life that scare you a little and excite you a lot. Not the things you coulda, woulda, shoulda do because other people think they’re a good idea — but things that excite you. And they should be clear, verifiable goals that can be accomplished in six months.

My goals are —

  • Finish my novel
  • submit 50 query letters to agents
  • write six teleplays
  • have two sit-down meals a week with my sister
  • get rid of 50% of the things I own
  • Be able to cycle 25 miles again
  • Be a size 12 instead of 16+
  • meditate for 600 minutes in the next six months

Okay, so that’s not 3-5 goals. You’ll see how I’m going to do it in a second.

from Life Light Up

Second — What should you spend the next six months doing?

Once you’ve got your goals, you need to know what ‘classes’ you should take to get there. What can you do every day and every week that will help you reach your goals?

The classes I get graded on are —

  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Eat a paleo diet
  • Yoga
  • Clean the house
  • Wash the dishes

Lastly — how do you get scored?

The idea is that a ‘perfect week’ would get you a 100 points, an ‘A+’, a 4.0 GPA. See the chart here. So after you after you decide on what actions or ‘classes’ will help you accomplish your goal, you need to divide your 100 points between them. Note: I just have writing time whereas my sister Sarah (an artist) has classes for drawing, oils, etc. You can make as many or few classes as you want but do what excites you. And do what works for you: I get lots of great work done whenever I can make myself sit down to write. In contrast, my sister has no trouble putting in the hours but sometimes needs more structure to finish things.

My point system —

  • Writing — 25 hours a week — 1 point per 30 minutes — total 50 points
  • Exercise — 30 minutes, five sessions a week — 3 points per session — total 15 points
  • Eat a Paleo Diet — eat right each of the seven days — 2 points per day — total 14 points
  • Yoga — yoga every day — 1 point per yoga session — total 7 points
  • Clean the house — pickup and straighten every day — 1 point per day — total 7 points
  • Wash the dishes — all dishes clean at least once per day — 1 point per day — total 7 points

As you can see, this totals 100. Also, we can see that if I didn’t spend any time writing, I would be getting an ‘F’ even if everything else was perfect (only 50 points). Because writing is important. Whereas if I blew off washing dishes for seven days, I could still get an ‘A’ (93 points). Because if I’m writing for 25 hours, eating great, exercising etc, I’m rockin’ it out — even without having the dishes sparkling.

from
bodywork.blogg.no

Remember, you’re the teacher AND and student.

One way to help yourself is to think from the point of view of a confident and successful teacher who has just taken you on as a student. The student has promise and potential. What are their strengths and their weaknesses? What kind of class plan will help them reach their goals? In my case, I knew paleo could help me lose weight, so if my goal is to lose those pounds that have crept back on, then doing something I know works is a smart teacher move — better than trying something I have no experience with. Is it easy? (five minute break for laughter here). No, but it gets the results I want.

So see all the potential within yourself — and recognize how hard you’ll need to work to bring it out.

The key —

Be serious. Be excited. Be committed. My sister and I bought special necklaces to wear and a banner and welcome mat in the Penhallam colors of teal and gold. I know the Penhallam fight song — I wrote it. I’m ready to work hard and push myself to the max. Because in six months, I’m going to SHOW YOU what I’ve accomplished, what my GPA is, and how much closer I am to my dreams and goals.

So join Penhallam and send me updates at katherinecerulean@gmail.com. Be part of the graduating class in October. Or create your own amazing school (start here to find a kick-butt old English name for your academy).

Is it silly? Is it a waste of time? Or is it exciting, unusual, and a great way to start to see yourself and your goals anew?

by Sally Murray
THE REAL PENHALLAM!

FIRST DAY UPDATE:

It’s now about 6:00 pm (this will probably post a few days from now) and the first day of Penhallam is almost done. When I complete 45 more minutes of writing time, I will have a perfect day and have gotten 25 points on this first day of the new week (since I work full time, ‘off’ days have increased importance).

I’m tired. But it’s been great. My sister has cooked us amazing paleo food (and chia seed pudding!). I’ve taken a walk and done yoga. The house looks great. And I’m writing this post, I did one for the Athens Writers Association too, I’m changing my office in a big way (getting rid of two book shelves), and I’m reading submissions for an AWA comedy collection. I’ve done a lot. I’m tired (wait, did I already say that?) but I am looking forward to the rest of this week, to getting my first ‘grade’ on Sunday, and to seeing just how far and how fast I can go.

After all, Penhallam is an amazing academy — I’ve got a lot to live up to!

by Shannon Honeyford

Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year! And congratulations! I know 2017 got off to a bit of a slow start for you, but man — you picked up the ball and ran with it. The last eleven months have been full of hard work, new challenges, and amazing accomplishments. You might not have gotten everything completed on your resolution list but you achieved a lot! You’re better positioned to live your dreams than ever before. And maybe more important than WHAT you’ve done is the ATTITUDE with which you’ve done it. Wow — you are an inspiration to all you meet.

from luna---belle.tumblr.com

from luna—belle.tumblr.com

Eleven Months Earlier

Things didn’t look so good. The best of intentions at New Year’s ran smack dab into the harsh wall of reality. It was kind of funny actually; it was like the moment you got serious all the little monsters and bugaboos crawled out of the woodwork and made you set aside your big dreams to deal with them.

By the end on January, things were ‘back in hand’ but you were exhausted and wondered if you could ever regain your momentum and make this the year that mattered and that changed everything.

by David Hirst

by David Hirst

How You Made 2017 Into a Rocket Ship

As the calendar turned to February, you started to feel excited again. Unreasonably excited. Sure, you were still tired, still bruised from your battles. But deep in your heart you started wondering if those January monsters were not just guardians at the gates and now that you’d bested them, you were in exciting, new territory. The year was young, the year was yours. And you were ready to fulfill the promises of January 1st.

All you needed was what every adventurer needs — a faded but trustworthy map; a bag of food — fuel for the journey, a mind for exploration, and heart full of gratitude for this chance, this trail. You looked about yourself and gathered:

THE MAP

You had a list written and printed out, that clearly defined where you most wanted to go this year and step-by-step for how you would get there. You took this map and placed it where you would see it every day and could check it off as you got closer and closer. It was so exciting as the months passed to see your progress. Standing at your destination at year’s end, you couldn’t imagine how you would have made it without it.

THE FUEL

You can’t get anywhere on an empty stomach. So you found new inspiration — from a blog, a book, a new Pinterest board, and new friends. Maybe you read these wonderful books —

from the American Library Association

from the American Library Association

from Amazon.com

from Amazon.com

A MIND FOR EXPLORATION

As you watch the clock tick down the minutes until 2018, ‘Champagne’ glass in hand, you realize that most of your success this year came from changing your attitude. In fact, you’re a little angry it took this long to learn how to live your dreams. It’s not easy, but it sure seems simple now. You take a breath and realize that now is right on time. You were finally ready this year to become the champion you’ve always known you could be. So what if it took awhile to reach this place — it was SO worth it. You realize that the best things about your new mindset were —

  • finally embracing failure as a stepping stone
  • forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself for everything
  • seeing hard work as essential and exciting
  • seeing play as essential and exciting
  • knowing 100% that you were capable of becoming this amazing person you’ve now become
  • learning to laugh and enjoy the adventure

    from fodors.com

    from fodors.com

A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE

I know. Back in late January you didn’t feel so grateful. It was cold (sometimes). You got sick. And mostly, your dreams felt at a standstill. But then you realized how lucky you were. Very, very lucky. You had amazing talent, unerring taste, and a dream that you never stopped thinking about and working toward. And you were now in a position to be able to follow that dream — even just a little bit — every single day. You had the drive and determination to turn your goals (your map) visible. And people now STARE in disbelief. They think you got lucky. And you get a little teary-eyed because you did get lucky, you got you — this amazing, able, fantastically dedicated person who said ‘Screw it; I’m going to be the exception. I’m going to be exceptional.’

And every day after that, all throughout 2017, you thanked yourself each day for being the person who went for it and chased after your dreams so hard. And you were also thankful to everyone and everything else that made 2017 such a success.

CONGRATULATIONS! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Now it’s time for those 2018 goals…   🙂

2016: Let’s Be Honest

from fromupnorth.com

from fromupnorth.com

So, I really want to have a knock-down, drag-out with 2016 to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and how to make 2017 amazing. I know a lot of people who have had similarly adversarial relationships with this past year.

That said, when I get honest I sometimes depress people by talking about the highs and lows in vivid detail (I think I permanently scarred my sister when she read an unpublished piece about my relationship woes; I thought it was funny stuff).

So, since this is mostly about me and the challenges of this year, feel free to skip it and we’ll pick back up with something more positive next time. BUT I do feel like the lessons of 2016 have propelled me into the most important new phase in ten years (more on ‘Phase Two’ in my next post).

For those who choose to remain: Beware, for here be monsters.

from theberry.com

from
theberry.com

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

This year I completed my best novel ever, the first draft of which I finished on a beautiful spring day while sitting on a hilltop and feeling as one with nature and the universe, and marveling at my own abilities.

I also cried like three times on my birthday in November — and none of those times were from joy.

So that about sums up 2016.

What went wrong?

Well, this year just had some challenges (though I’m very lucky and blessed overall). In January someone going 40 rear-ended me at a stop light and totaled our car. I was fine and his insurance paid, but it was a lot of stress at the time. We had a rat in our house for the first time, which lead to a month-long odyssey to get rid of him (my respect for rats increased multi-fold).

Then our grandmother died. Her health had been failing for a while but it was my and my sister’s first big loss since our mother died twelve years ago.

I also picked some goals that were not perfect in retrospect. My goal to enter a 60 mile cycling ‘fun ride’ in May was both ambitious and not super-fun to achieve, and it didn’t help me from slipping from fit to fat as the year wore on.

I also planned to submit 500 queries to agents, or resumes to businesses and websites— all in an effort to make something happen this year. I probably submitted about 150, mostly to no effect.

So that’s the bad. Oh yeah, and I was waaayy excited about driving a European musician from north Alabama to New Orleans (dreams and romantic fantasies included) only to have the trip be canceled last minute (amazing, heartfelt, 7,500 word piece about that is in the works).  😉

Oh, and the election was a heartbreaker for me.

It’s not that so many bad things happened, it’s just that I really wanted big, good things to happen. I wanted to get an agent and sell my novel. I wanted to get in my best shape ever. I wanted to get a boyfriend. And get out of my retail job.

None of those things happened, and as they say, expectation is the root of misery. On the other hand, a lot of very good things happened in 2016. Sarah and I always have a best of the year list, and mine included —

Highlights of 2016

  1. Finishing ‘Society & Civility’. My best book yet, and the one I had to rewrite the most. I’m very proud.
  2. Finishing one television pilot, one screenplay, and ‘Triad’ first draft. My young adult, superhero novel ‘Triad’ had been brewing more a while, as had my renewed interest in writing for the screen.
  3. The whole stupid canceled trip to New Orleans. I got to hang out with my sister instead, and felt more than I had in a long time (it was bad feelings but those too are valuable for writers).
  4. Hearing Frank Turner live again. The closest thing I’ve found to a shot of pure inspiration.
  5. Eating at The National (the best restaurant in Athens, GA) for the first time.
  6. Some other good stuff.

But as a whole, the challenges seemed to overshadow the triumphs. So what did go wrong? And how can I right the ship in 2017 and ensure that I don’t end up crying on my 38th birthday?

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

— 2017 Plans —

  1. Set goals you can achieve. 500 query letters just wasn’t very realistic for someone who can only write about one every thirty minutes (and it might not even be the best way to get an agent).
  2. Align your goals with your dreams. In the same way, being out of my retail job by the holidays pretty much meant I would just have had to go find a different retail job — not really my goal. And cycling 60 miles in one day proved something, but it didn’t mean I’m healthier now than last year.
  3. Get back on track quickly. The best times of last year were the weeks and months that my sister and I were on track, getting rid of clutter, eating right, and working on our writing and art goals. But the aforementioned hardships (car totaled, Grammy passing, trip falling through) led to extended periods of eating badly and not doing much toward our dreams. In hindsight, I would have pushed harder to get back on course sooner.
  4. Figure out what you really want. Part of my unhappiness was born of really wanting to move into a new phase of my life (another longtime retail worker just mentioned to me that, between the two of us, we have been there almost 25 years — woof). I keep saying that I’ll have time for a boyfriend — when I’m living the life of my dreams. I’ll have a nice house when… I’ll be fit when… I’ll travel when… And these things have became tied to me being a professional writer who lives off what I earn. Oh, and I’ve decided it’s cool not to have children as long as I can have a great career. So, as you can imagine, each year that hasn’t found me becoming a ‘professional writer’ has added my confusion. Hence the crying on my birthday. When will this ‘pay off’? Of course, I have a great, enjoyable life as is, but I do have desires unfulfilled. I think I need to date and travel and make the house nicer now — not just plan for someday when I have my dream job.
  5. Make a perfect life here and now. A lot of my plans for 2017 involve living my dream life in the present moment. I want to write a lot and on projects that I love and that excite me. Basically, I want to act like I’m already being paid to write what I love most, like millions of people are clamoring for my next creation. I want to live in a minimal, clean home full of beauty. And I want to eat and exercise like I’m already achieving everything else I desire. And maybe I’ll even add in the happy chaos of dating someone.
  6. Realize that ‘Madness isn’t for everyone’ — but it might be right for me. That’s a new tattoo I’m thinking about getting (and an E.M. Forster quote). Basically, to me it means that the hard work, nay insanity, of living your dream life isn’t for everyone. A dream is a pretty thing that doesn’t take up much space but a goal — a dream unleashed — is a wild, vibrant, life-changing — and altering — force. I think that 2016 really saw me bringing my dreams out into the open and I think that caused a lot of chaos in my heart and in my life. My fantasies about the trip revealed my romantic side that had been neglected, while submitting queries and resumes showed how much I want to join the ‘professional’ writing world. These aren’t bad things, but they are hard. Saying our lives, and ourselves, are not perfect is never easy. I understand now that it’s part of the process of changing up my life and I’m prepared to suffer a little on the road to living my dreams.
  7. Do less. One thing about these big, new, exciting dreams is that they take a lot of effort. I think I want next year to be about doing a few things really well, instead of a lot of things okay. I’ve always loved the idea of boarding schools, or retreats — going somewhere and just living for one purpose. I’d love to really focus in 2017, and say I could end up with several great writing projects done, and the nicer house than ever, and feeling in shape. I want to back off on other things — bigger travel or even a new job — and really work on getting some amazing writing done.
  8. Let go. This year I pulled back from my role in the Athens Writers Association a little and told my writer friends of my plans to travel more and eventually live in other places. It was hard. It felt like I was abandoning them and destroying what we’ve built together. But it’s not my future. I created the group I wanted, and love all the wonderful experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met. But now I feel drawn in new directions and would feel resentful if I felt like I had to stay and oversee the AWA forever. If it is meant to be in the long-term, the AWA will belong to others. In the same way, my sister and I had some amazing trips up to visit our grandparents on the lake and those times are changing too. I think the more wholeheartedly we can release the rhythms of the past that no longer serve us, the quicker we can change our lives for the better and embrace our destinies.87955017bc1fa5715cea2f755db2b36b
  9. Read the writing on the wall. Honestly, some of the pain of 2016 came really from not seeing reality very clearly. Now, I’m a huge fan of dreams and possibility but I probably should have been more aware — that the dream trip might not happen, the Republican candidate could win, and that a Jane Austin-inspired novel might be a challenging sell. Big goals are still good, but it helps to be open to things not always working out as expected.
  10. Just ride it out. Stuff happens. That’s just life. There’ll always be little issues and annoyances. And one of the more important things that happened last year, losing our grandmother, had been on the horizon for a while. Life is always going to have its share of challenges. Even a ‘perfect life’ with the dream job and house, would still have colds and oil changes and accidents. Some part of life is just handling what’s thrown at you with grace. And 2016 threw a few things at me. I’m still working on the grace part.
  11. Spend more time on what you love. Some of the best times in 2016 were doing fun things with my sister, and cycling through the beautiful countryside, and writing. Especially the writing. Even now, when I’m tired, a little bummed out, and just about done with 2016 (I wrote the first draft of this mid-December), I’m still happy to be writing. To have gotten up early to write, and to be planning all the great fiction I’ll create in the new year.
  12. Grow better instead of just growing old. In 2016 I learned that I’m now in the ‘middle-aged’ group. I still feel young but I do know that time is passing. And I’m thankful because I feel like I’m so much more improved now as a person than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I’m a better person, a better writer. And I think the important thing is to take even bigger steps next year to become the person I want to be and live a life I love — now and for years to come.
from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

NOTE: Since I wrote this in late December, I’ve had a very exciting Christmas when my beloved sister Sarah gave me a replica of Thanduril’s sword.

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That character has always been special to me and this sword is a huge symbol to me. I’m ready to be worthy of wielding such a weapon, and it’s a reminder to be daring and ‘all-in’ in my writing and my life.

Sarah and I have made some awesome new habits in our life and when you do that, to quote Sarah’s 2017 mantra — ‘Everything changes.’ Next post I’ll get into what we are doing and how you too can make 2017 the best year yet.

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Ten Quotes to Lift Your Spirit

According to a lot of people, 2016 has been a tough year (myself included). Hopefully the holiday season will be especially cheery and bright this year and here’s an early gift of ten of my favorite quotes to improve your day —

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Hamilton the Musical

Hamilton the Musical

from imagevalley.co

from imagevalley.co

if-i-find-in-myself-desires-which-nothing-in-this-world-can-satisfy-the-only-logical-explanation-is-that-i-was-made-for-another-world

kmba-ira-glass-quote

— Ira Glass

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from imgfave.com

from imgfave.com

from weheartit.com

from weheartit.com

etsy -- BlushBoulevard

etsy — BlushBoulevard

And one to grow on…

Matt Adrian / The Mincing Mockingbird

Matt Adrian / The Mincing Mockingbird

Moment: A Poem

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We, by nature, are creatures of want, creatures of need.  We need shelter, food, and even, I would argue, we need love.

Our wants of course, are endless.  From the noblest desire for world peace to the hope of people ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ our latest online pic, there is no limit to our wants.

‘More’ is one of our greatest wants. There’s nothing a small child loves more than a cookie — unless it’s TWO cookies. It is a natural desire, not necessarily born from selfishness or greed in my opinion, but in the best circumstances born from love.

We’ve enjoyed something so much, it’s bettered our life in ways un-imagined, and honestly we simply never want to do without it again.

When I find certain people — just a few times in my life, I want more. To paraphrase F.Scott Fitzerald, I want to do everything in the world with them.

But, in another way, just getting to meet someone IS the world. Time quite likely is an abstraction of our own making, and so I like to believe this meeting will continue and exist somewhere, forever.

I don’t have to be everywhere they are, involved in every conversation.  We were connected once — through a good conversation or a good laugh — and that moment will echo in a sacred glade where all the clocks have broken.

I probably think such things to lessen the pain of releasing friends and lovers into the world, to leave them to their wiles. I can only hope fate is kind, their loved ones steadfast, and that they sense, somewhere in their hearts, how very much they are loved.  Even if I only shared in a few minutes of their glory.

A few minutes.  For the ‘more’ crowd, that’s nothing, that’s pointless.  What’s an egg-timer-length conversation in a life? What’s one exchange, one joke? Surely that can’t change my life, or theirs?

And how can there be meaningful connection with someone who chooses not to be connected? Whether distance or work or love drives someone from your sphere — then they and you are nothing to each other and share nothing, right?

Not in my mind. A connection can only be the meeting of the eyes, a fleeting understanding between souls on a crowded street — lines running from infinity to infinity and only crossing once. On this day, in this moment.

In this moment.

If we always want more, and believe only quantity matters — if years and joint mortgages and fifty year friendships are the only measure of worth, of connection, of love — then we are doomed to always desire more. We simply cannot have everything, all the time, with everyone. And like the child wanting that extra cookie, we may discover that more is not better.  Would your life really have space for forty best friends, six dream jobs, or three soul mates?

Perhaps life instead, gives us moments. Best friends for a day. That summer we thought we would become fashion designers. A few bright fall days when we felt we’d met a soul mate.

As a human, I desperately want more of everything I love. More beautiful walks in nature. More gourmet meals with my sister. More times of looking into someone’s eyes and understanding exactly what their words cannot say. More moments with you.

But there’s someone out there who has taken their last walk, and eaten their last meal, and they still are blessed and gifted by all they have seen and done. Memories is a dead term, I prefer to dwell in moment.

I have experienced so much and so joyfully that I can never be sorry for the brevity when the berth has been so great. I speak of longing but I sing of gratitude.

The day we release ‘more’ ironically is the day we are given everything. Perfect satisfaction. Perfect experience. True friendship. True love.

Because when you don’t need to possess anything, the whole world belongs to you. The length of a connection is no more meaningful than length of a sunrise — you either experience it or you don’t. You’re best friends for the length of a laugh, lovers for the batting of an eye, family for the duration of a meal.

Still, we are human and we want. I do not require a lifelong ally, or a lifetime of friendship. All I desire now is a million more seconds of connection with you.

And yet, in this moment, I find everything I seek.

Struggle As Adventure

from quotesvalley.com

from
quotesvalley.com

Strug·gle
verb

  • make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.
  • strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.
  • have difficulty handling or coping with.
  • engage in conflict.
  • make one’s way with difficulty.

Struggle doesn’t sound like fun.  Maybe, it doesn’t even sound right — if you’re strugglin’, did you take a wrong turn somewhere, make a mistake, or overshoot your abilities?  At best it sounds like something to be borne, and then quickly gotten past.

And while I consider myself very lucky and have never known true hardship, there were early days in my adulthood of struggling to make ends meets and then figuring out how to build a new life with my sister after my mother suddenly passed away.  My sister Sarah and I also had to fix up our childhood home to move back there — water pipes and electrical outlets needed fixing, and new fences for a dog pen had to be built.

These times were not fun — hardly any of it.  Back then, we dreamed of a unknown, rich uncle showing up out of the blue and whisking us away to live on his Frisian horse farm in Spain (he was a Gary Oldman/Sirius Black sort).  We didn’t choose any of that struggle, and yes, we wished for it to be over.  And yet, around the edges we still found bits of fun.  I vividly remember digging post holes with Sarah for the dog pen while pretending to be characters from our favorite sci-fi shows (Earth 2 and SeaQuest DSV) and laughing our heads off.  And that moment was important.

“I’m-thankful-for-my-struggle-because-without-it-I-wouldn’t-have-stumbled-across-my-strength.”-–Alex-Elle-760x760

The other kind of struggle is the struggle you choose.  Now, it beats the other one, hands down.  But… it’s kind of like choosing to jump into a raging river to save someone’s life instead of being pushed in: you get the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing but that’s little comfort when your lungs are full of water and you’re thrashing around in the water.  For me, this type of struggle has defined 2016.

Ahh, 2016.  I just keep expecting it to turn a corner and get easier and yet I’m pushing against all barriers and really trying to reach a new reality with my dreams of health, fitness, having less stuff, and taking my writing career to the next level.  It hasn’t been easy, really none of it, but the results are real and the progress is visible (and now I can say I’ve cycled 65 miles in a day).

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But is it enough to just find tiny moments of joy and appreciate what we gain from struggle?  Isn’t that kind of gratitude akin to ‘Mmm mmm, these Brussels sprouts really taste like they have a lot of vitamins!’  Whether chosen by us or chosen for us, this state of increased difficulty can last months or even years — shouldn’t our lives be full of joy and adventure even in the midst of challenge and change?

I just read ‘Peter Pan and Wendy‘ for the first time.  One of the striking things was that Peter never really seemed to seek comfort and peace.  Oh sure, he and the Lost Boys enjoyed coming home in the evenings and having Wendy mother them, but that was just so they could rest and renew for tomorrow’s adventure.  And sometimes in a battle, if the tide turned and Peter’s forces were easily winning, he would switch sides and start fighting the Lost Boys just to up the challenge.  Most of us can’t imagine asking for more of a struggle, but Peter gleefully embraced it, found it interesting, and even became bored if triumphs came to him too easily.

Back in the real world, how can we re-frame the struggle as adventure?  Our struggles are as unique as our lives, and some of them may seem joyless and insurmountable.  But whatever our challenges, we always have control over our minds and how we perceive ourselves —

How to See Your Struggle as the Greatest Adventure of Your Life

  1. Be grateful for the chance.  Whatever you’re doing, where ever you’re going, someone somewhere wishes they were in your shoes.  Whether you’re in debt, want to lose weight, working your way through school, or fighting cancer — somebody wishes they had that fight.  A person hit and killed by a bus yesterday would love to have your today — it may not be easy but there’s a beautiful breeze whispering through even the hardest days.
  2. Know that you’re getting a chance to show off your badass-ery.  The biggest fights show the hero off to their greatest advantage.  In ‘The Princess Bride’ our hero Westley is dueling with a very accomplished sword fighter, Inigo Montoya.  He’s been really challenged by their fight and THEN Inigo makes known a devastating secret — ‘I’m not really left-handed.’  Inigo switches to fighting with his dominant right hand and we wonder if our hero is doomed.  Instead, Westley deftly switches his sword to his other hand too and reveals, ‘Neither am I.’  He’s as good as the best in the world.  And so are you.  People run from struggle.  Most lives are carefully built around its absence, so just being willing to wake up every day and resubmit yourself to many punishing challenges qualifies you for a lot of kudos and admiration.  That’s not saying everyone will notice but many more will than you realize (you may be inspiring your teacher, parent, or child without even knowing it).  So remember, you’ve got the tools and you’re got the talent — and you’re handling on a daily basis what would scare the shit out of lesser mortals 😉
  3.  Redefine what you’re looking for in life.  Do you really just want that lee in the storm?  A warm beach and a cold drink?  When we’re tired, peace and relaxation sounds like the best things life has to offer.  But again and again studies show that our greatest satisfaction and even happiness in this life comes from working toward goals that deeply matter to us.  Life should have pleasures and we should enjoy them — but pleasure isn’t what makes life worth living.  Get out of the mindset of desperately seeking easy street — that place where your job is perfect, your family life carefree, and to-do list done.  Goals are very important to our satisfaction, but remember that John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’  This wild, turbulent time is exciting and full of possibility — enjoy the race more and look toward the finish line less.  Because what you will remember later is always the race.
  4. Own your struggle.  You chose to be here.  Yes, you did.  Because ‘here’ is the struggle and you could have just laid down, given up, or exited out.  You decided to be here and you decided to fight for what you want.  One of the most important things I ever learned about having a job was that I chose to have a job — no one coerced me do it; it was a decision I made to have money for the things I wanted.  In the same way, you can get ahead of your challenges and at least feel like you’re choosing this life instead of having it forced upon you.  Be proactive about taking care of the issues you can control (pay your bills on time if you can instead of adding late fees on top of your other money woes), develop a plan for going forward, and trust yourself to be able to handle any challenges that come your way.  For myself, I know I can always quit fighting, and go live a life of fast food, reality TV, and mediocre achievements — but I chose to keep fighting: to create great art, to find my fans and embrace them, to get the body and live the life I want, and to never settle until I have the man of my dreams in my arms.adventure
  5. Embrace uncertainty.  A lot of the trouble with struggling is fear.  We’re fighting for freedom or to make our way forward.  We have hopes, goals, dreams, or even just the desire for a little peace and quiet.  During the hardest times of moving into our old house after Mom’s death, I remember hanging a poster on wall of my bedroom by the artist SARK and thinking that that poster would still be there when things were much better, and so it connected me to a future I desperately wanted to come to pass — and it did.  And then it passed by, and became the now.  The point is, whether or not all our dreams come true, we’re still moving forward and everything will be all right, in the end.  If we release our fears, then struggle looks a lot more like just acting out our deepest goals and desires in an exciting, unfamiliar place.  We’re having a dashing adventure, sword fighting with pirates.  Or we’re exploring lands no one has ever laid eyes on before.  Or we’re risking it all in a ‘hail Mary’ shot that will either fail spectacularly or land us in the company of legends.

When my sister and I talk about ‘adventure’ movies versus ‘action’ movies, we often say how — No matter how hard, difficult, or dangerous the path is, there is nowhere in the world the adventurer would rather be, and there’s nothing they’d rather be doing.  Because here is where your gumption’s tested, where heroes are made, great discoveries of knowledge, treasure, and secrets revealed, and you’re living the story that will be recounted joyously a hundred times around a hundred campfires when you’re safely back home.  The adventure is where you are most alive, using all of your talents to escape traps and outwit enemies, in awe of your abilities and fortitude, and where — when you catch your reflection in a quiet moment, in a lull in the battle — you find yourself with the biggest grin on your face, shocked at your good fortune and strength, your trials and triumphs, and astounded at the recognition that this is the best moment of your life and that you were so blessed to be gifted with this struggle, for inside it, you found yourself.

from piccsy.com

from
piccsy.com

 

The Fastest Way to Change Your Life For the Better

from buzzfeed.com

from buzzfeed.com

A little over a year ago I decided it was time to start getting rid of some of my and my sisters extra possessions.  We had been limiting the amount of new items for a while but there were several rooms full of things that I hadn’t even looked at since we moved 11 years ago.  Just, hadn’t looked at.  Actually, it was more like — hadn’t dealt with.  A lot of this stuff had belonged to my mother before she passed away, or were ‘useful’ things from her herb shop like books and essential oils.  We also had stuff from our childhood, from our grandmother, and tons of old books the family had collected.
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I started going through every room and soon my cry was, ‘Why didn’t I do this years ago?’  Now, there are tons of good articles on ways to reduce clutter, but I just want to share with you a few of the things I did and why they changed my life forever.  I can’t imagine going back to the way I lived before — and I’m so excited about where I’m headed next.

8 Things I Learned While Halving What I Own

  1. We don’t KNOW what we own.  Weird but true.  If you have ‘mystery boxes’ you aren’t really owning and using those things — they’re just taking up space.  I had two boxes full of my grandmother’s photos but I’d never looked at them.  I didn’t know about those pictures in any sense of the word.  But looking through them taught me a lot about my grandmother’s life, and then I was able to keep some favorites and send the rest on to my uncle and his family — allowing others to know more too.
  2. We only interact with a tiny portion of what we own.   Imagine for a moment that you have electric blue, glowing dust on your fingers — how many things do you touch in your home on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis?  Now imagine that gazing upon something also lights it up with blue dust — what things in your house would glow — how many pictures?  And how many rooms would have nothing at all touched or seen over the course of a month?  I learned that ‘storage’ (except for winter/summer clothes) doesn’t actually seem to have a point.  Why are we keep up with this stuff?
  3. It’s much easier to let go of things in rounds.  Last spring I made a list (always make lists!) of every room that I wanted to go through.  Then this spring I did it again.  The goal here is to let go of what you can, and then happily keep all other things till the next round.  Maybe you’ll use it by then, or maybe you’ll realize that it’s not important to hold on to.  The point is, the more times you return to a place, the easier it is to get rid of stuff.
  4. It’s fun to gift your things away.  One of the downsides of hoarding/collecting/acquiring is that you can feel possessive and fearful — ‘These are MY things, and someday I’ll use them.’  When you let go of things, the opposite is true — you feel generous and trusting.  The universe and you have got this and you’re not imaging that somehow a broken Nikon camera from eight years ago is all that — one day — will stand between you and starvation.  So give books to your friends, give tools to your neighbors,  and give everything to Good Will/charity etc.  Selling off things is so much harder than giving them away — trust yourself and let it go!
  5. The equation ‘MORE STUFF = BETTER LIFE’ is false.   I wasn’t raised to be materialistic, but we also never got rid of anything.  If you were tired of having something on a shelf, it went to the closet.  Cleaning the closet?  Move it to the pantry.  Then the garage.  Our life wasn’t ‘richer’ for having more things, and we didn’t have more fun by having every room crowded by junk either.
  6. Making it a joyful process is a key to success.  Don’t think ‘I must get rid stuff to make my life better’ .  Instead, just see what you’re excited to get rid of.  Everything in life works better if you happy and excited.
  7. Trick your mind by taking everything off the shelf/out of the closet and only putting back what you want.  My sister taught me this one.  For years, every square inch of her bedroom walls were covered in art — from tiny cards to giant posters.  And occasionally she’d take a couple of old ones off and put a few new ones up.  But it was only this year that she transformed her room into something awesome.  She did the work and took every single picture off her wall.  So now it was harder to put the things back on than just get rid of them.  This changed her way of thinking and she threw away a lot of pictures that no longer inspired her, and re-sorted the other stuff so that similar works could be together.
  8. You become richer by having less. When I started getting rid of my ‘to-be-read’ books last year, it felt like a betrayal of who I was — I’m a writer, a reader.  But that very first day also taught me a lesson: down on a bottom shelf, un-examined for years, was ‘Roots’.  I was about to get rid of it but then I read the first pages and it ended up being one of the greatest reading experiences of my life.  I realized then that I only really enjoyed the things that I saw and interacted with — I ‘got’ a book that day instead of losing the 20 I gave away.  And over and over again I’ve found more peace, more rest, and more joy as I’ve given away excess items.

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A year later, I look around and I can’t imagine why I had all that stuff.  I didn’t use it, I didn’t need it, and the emotional weight I was attaching to old family items didn’t increase my love for the family members who had owned them.

Now I feel like I have breathing room.  And with each carload I take to Good Will, I feel closer to being able to travel the world, to move cities if I wish, and to live the life of my dreams.  But even if I wanted to stay right here for the next 50 years, I’d be glad to do it without sharing the space with that old, broken Nikon camera.

Try it for yourself.  But be warned: you might just jump-start a revolution that reverberates throughout your entire existence.  Today the pantry, tomorrow — the world!

from Courtney Carver

from
Courtney Carver