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magic?

How is it made? How does it get in? How does it manifest itself in a life?

Magic, or grace, or whatever you want to call the intangibles that make it all not just bearable but exciting will get in the cracks, that’s true. But maybe there’s a bigger chance of it showing itself if we make actual room for it.

I stopped using that productivity planner. I think those things are great. I like figuring out when I have the most energy for a thing and making a schedule for my days based on that information and that leading to the possibility of fitting all of the things, creativity included, in. But please, using it not only made me have to make time in my day to use it, hence another thing to have to do, it also started to make me feel like I was in kindergarten. And I never even went to kindergarten. My Mama thought I was above and beyond it.

Whether she was right or not, I don’t know. But I think she knew I was ready to start busting moves and didn’t need anyone to tell me to do so.

I have never been the sort to let things that need doing go undone. Irresponsibility is not my problem. I grew up hearing, “If you want someone to remember something, tell Allison,” and “She’s the responsible one.” But I am the sort who, if I’m not careful and leave myself unchecked, will leave no room for anything else. I’ve carried the weight of those early projections and I’m no longer satisfied with that saddle (this makes me put on my list that this topic would be good to write about) so I’m trying to shake it off.

Cultivating ideas and digging deep into creative work usually requires some time for dreaming and softness. It hit me that I feel like I need to give myself permission to take that time. As my own harshest and most judgmental critic, I’ve been pointing fingers at myself for not doing enough since I started making to do lists, some time around 11th grade. Oh, have mercy. Screw this productivity, this seeping in of the voices of headset wearing task masters who would urge me to “crush” my goals and “kill” a performance. Why all the violent words? I don’t want to crush anything or anyone and I certainly don’t want to kill the making of art (I’m going to write that down to go over later too). I’m trying to avoid violence in my life at every turn — why such language? I digress…

I need a to do list, for there is indeed a lot to do. But I’m trying to leave more space in between the entries. Even if it’s just time to have a cup of coffee right by myself and not over a meeting or desperate catch up with a friend, even if it’s listening to a record and doing nothing else while the sun is still up, even if it’s taking a walk and appreciating where the inspiration to do anything comes from in the first place, or, horror of horrors, even if it’s taking a nap. If I never leave any space for air, for yes, magic, to get in, then how do I expect it to show itself to me?

This missive, from spiritual idiot headquarters, is sent earnestly.

Happy Monday Y’all,

AM

Planes

 

 

“I hope they don’t cancel the flight.”

Ha. Of course they cancelled the flight. And of course I had my day planned around it not being cancelled and everything going just as I had planned, down to the hour. Arrival, cab ride, grocery getting, sitter arriving, dinner plans.

Ha.

And of course all of those things fed into my schedule for tomorrow. Now we can’t get out until late tomorrow afternoon.

Ha.

There was a time when I’d have come completely unraveled by such a thing. But if there’s anything I’ve learned you can do exactly zero about, it’s weather and air travel. I just wasn’t wise enough to know it’s easier to give in and go with it until, well, maybe today. I would normally grit my teeth through it all and lament having to rearrange my schedule, life, and whatever portion of my brain that deals with these matters.

I told myself at the end of 2017 that I would work on becoming more emotionally healthy and getting my priorities in order instead of making any tangible resolutions for 2018, that my goals to do this thing or that project weren’t as important as learning how to enjoy life along with the doing of life. I don’t know how well it’s going really, but I am actively pursuing working a healthy dose of everything’s gonna be all right into my psyche. I am not wired that way. And I dare say that my myriad anxieties have propelled me into action – necessary and productive action – many times, so I can’t tell you that my list making and worrying hasn’t served me – it’s not all wasted energy and walking around obsessively rubbing my hands together. But I’m trying to get it all in better perspective so that I don’t end up wishing I’d enjoyed my life more when I look up and find my days in short supply (and who knows when that will be). There are already probably more behind me than there are ahead.

After I hung up with the airline, I rescheduled what I needed to reschedule, and thought about all of the ways that leaving tomorrow is really better than leaving today. Because why shouldn’t I do that? I’m grounded here either way, and this day will pass whether I’m fretting about something or not. I’d prefer to not. There’s nothing I can do about planes, but there is something I can do about me.

 

Happy Monday and happy travels,

AM

 

recess

Or reprieve, release, interim, delay, pause, respite. Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t done my weekly post until late last Monday. When I did, I didn’t have time to stop and put my hour in — we had plans to go out for dinner. I’d gotten some big (good, work related) news that day and my attention had become a laser toward what exactly to do about it, because even if there is a delightful development, some thought usually must follow in regards to what step(s) to then take. The house was bustling with guests and John Henry was on spring break and it was a somewhat pretty day in Tennessee. A lot of life was happening, and I simply forgot.

I hate not living up to an expectation or obligation, anything I’ve made a commitment to do. Even this, that I’ve only agreed with myself to do, is important to me. What is the saying? We are what we do consistently? I’m a creature of habit like most other creatures, and I find that I constantly need to push myself to elevate those habits, even if in only small ways. In short, I don’t like to let myself up on anything. I guess it goes without saying that such a practice — of holding myself accountable and to a standard — makes me, at times, a task master. I hate that. It’s not that much fun.

So I let it go and promised myself I’d return today. And here I am. But what happened in the interim is that I tried to apply the “just because you let one thing slide doesn’t mean you’re going to be neck deep in dirty dishes and laundry and that you’ll never write another word or produce another thing and you will die sick and poor and unaccomplished,” concept to other areas of my life. Just for a week. I didn’t purposefully work on anything but enjoying my son, enjoying my friends, (really) being present in my home, appreciating the scenery, reading an incredible book, and being grateful about the news mentioned in the first paragraph (I’ll reveal soon, promise) and just how ridiculously good my life is. It felt much nicer than whipping my own ass all the time. Maybe there’s something to this concept of balance, because lo and behold, a song flew out of me on Saturday. I wasn’t even trying, I was just inspired. It was a good lesson for me, because I know there is absolute truth in the idea that if you don’t put in, you can’t take out.

Happy Monday.

AM

seasons

I like the turn from warm to cool. Fall, more than spring, makes me think of fresh starts somehow. I suppose it has something to do with my memories of school — how a new notebook and a fresh pencil can make every possibility possible. I love jackets and coats, wool socks and sweaters, curling up in front of a fireplace to read, sew, or watch a movie — I love big pots of soup and chili on the stove. I love to sit with an idea and think a while, with no sun beckoning me out of doors. There is no season so romantic and for some reason, no season that makes me more eager to hunker down and work.

But damn. There comes a time when my skin is parched and dry and too pale for even the likes of pale skin lovers, when all the recipes for heart and soul warming soups are exhausted, when the sweaters have grown limp and tired and need putting away, when I’m tired of dreading going outside because I don’t want the chill to get under my skin and wrap its metallic fingers around my bones, when I’d rather set fire to my parka rather than put it on one more time, when I need some space and air and a breeze instead of close quarters and gusts. There comes a time when I need a sliver of hope that I will see the sun shine again. By this time of the year, I’ve usually all but forgotten that it will ever come out and that I’ll soon be lamenting the hot, sticky, heat.

Then the turn comes. Finally.

This isn’t a post about the weather. Not really. Only one about there being seasons, in some way, to every situation. Micro or macro, they’re there, just as there are temperatures and colors. I am in a cool, grey/blue phase right now, for instance, incubating ideas and trying to take life as slowly as it will allow. Will my pink, orange, and red return as the days grow longer? Tick tock.

Tick tock indeed. I am not unaware of the season of my life. I’d say I’m somewhere in mid-July at the moment and I’m on my way back from vacation. Heat both rises and bears down, asking for permission to take up residence in my belly. I prepare to reach toward it from my head and my toes and to soak up all the inspiration it offers. The turn. There is always the turn.

 

Happy Monday,

AM

prime

 

Thinking about numbers for too long can make me dissociate. It’s not that I have a problem with math — I actually like math and the perfection and reliability of numbers — its the infinite that makes me nervous.

 

When I was a very young girl I started to drift away from myself in my mind from time to time, some sort of defense mechanism, yes, and did so by imagining, involuntarily, that I was lost in space and floating endlessly away from my physical body. Go ahead and have a field day with that one. The reason I mention it to you now is because I was thinking about prime numbers today and the more I thought about them the more nervous I got because there is no end to them, or any numbers really, and not every number can be accounted for, ever, and on and on. I started to feel that lost in space feeling and made myself turn away from the wormhole I was about to enter.

 

Then I thought that some people are like prime numbers. They aren’t composites and can only be divided by 1 and, of course, their very own self. They are contrary, uneven, known only to their group and don’t work well with others, especially not the rounded off, kind and agreeable numbers. Primes are hardheaded and inflexible. They are staunchly independent and never apologize for standing apart from the crowd. Can you imagine a regal prime number wishing it could shave a little of itself off so it would fit in? I can’t. Primes are beautiful and edgy.

 

I decided to turn away from that wormhole too. Shoot, it’s only the beginning of the week. But who knows? I am an admitted glutton for punishment. I may return.

 

Happy Monday.

AM

time

When the end of December 2017 came too quickly, I decided that one thing I wanted to do in 2018 was write something in this online journal once a week. I told myself I would do it every Monday — it would be a good start to the week or a good end to the weekend, a thing done, a message communicated, and a way to keep my writing muscles flexed if I wasn’t working on anything else.

I quickly decided, after becoming bogged down in post after post and trying to make them perfect, to only give myself 1 hour to complete the process from beginning to end.  That didn’t mean I couldn’t think about what I wanted to write about or how I would do it ahead of time — I make notes about topics that interest me on the regular and often look through them if for no other reason than to keep myself familiar with all of the things that run through my mind, and specifically the things that I feel are interesting or important enough to write down — but the writing process would only take 1 hour. I even set a timer to prevent perfectionism from taking over.

Yesterday’s to do list included, “online journal post,” as it does every Monday. But I didn’t ever get to my hour. I didn’t get my post written.

Mondays can sometimes be ridiculous days. One would think that the life of an artist wouldn’t be so dictated by what day of the week it is, but I suppose we’re somewhat conditioned, like most people are, to think we need to get a lot done, to think we need to get a jump on things or make a fresh start. Truth is, any day can be a ridiculous day.

I had a plan. Last week involved quite a bit of travel and stress for me so I wanted to do something grounding and comforting. I decided to delve into my new favorite cookbook, “How To Eat For How You Feel,” which is based in Ayurvedic principle, so I picked a few recipes yesterday morning and headed to Whole Foods. I normally get my groceries delivered because I can and because it saves me time and hassle, but I actually like picking out my own food and I decided I could devote myself to the whole experience — picking out a recipe, making a list, walking to the grocery store, unpacking my purchases at home, cooking, and then sitting down at the table to sample my efforts. Well, it took hours. I tend to cook a lot when I’m home, but I was reminded why I like the little app on my phone that allows me to skip a few steps on the way to supper, bruised apples or not.

There is so little time.

A text exchange with one person can suck 30 minutes out of the 18 hours or so that I am awake. Then I have only 35 30-minute increments left. Throw in all the emails, travel planning, business doing, laundry folding, bed making, suitcase unpacking, mothering, therapist and school communication, friendship keeping up, relationship maintenance, showering, dressing, hair brushing, moisturizer applying… good lord. The minutes seep out of the day. I look up to see the backsides of hours departing like high-speed trains leaving a station. Trains that will never be seen again. I want to shout, “Come Back!” at them. I want to tell them I didn’t mean to let them go. I want to tell them I’m sorry I squandered them on emoticons and pressing the delete key over and over, I want to tell them I’m sorry I didn’t fill up each one of them with deeper thoughts or at least some that would help me toward peace. I want to apologize for infusing even one of their minutes with anger or sorrow or tears or frustration. Those minutes do not deserve such treatment.

I did make some good use of the day, however. I did learn to make a delicious, warming, grounding vegetable curry and cooked my first mung beans. I didn’t use ready made brown rice to go with it but instead the kind you have to put in the rice cooker. Some things do take time. And sometimes taking time is worth it. The truth is I love to cook, especially for people I care about. I am lucky that I can cook for people I care about. I am lucky I have people to care about and that give that care back to me. But I beat myself up at the end of the day for never getting to this, this thing I told myself that I’d do, this thing that is important to me. So this morning I got up and thought about what I needed to change today to prevent my hours from leaving without having looked them dead in the eye, without them knowing I acknowledged them and gave them all of the meaning I could. And I’m not sure yet. Life isn’t like that. Just because I make a to do list doesn’t mean something unintended isn’t going to come sliding right into the middle of it, taking my focus away from what I’d planned. But I keep whittling away at it, always trying to work toward what matters, carving out spaces for the work that’s important to me and getting rid of what doesn’t serve my priorities. Yesterday I suppose my priority was cooking. It’s a good thing I have leftovers, because voila! My hour is up.

Happy Tuesday,

AM

 

PS – hourglass courtesy of The School of Life.

travel

If you see a pretty building from inside a van while it’s still dark outside and you’re on your way out of town, have you really seen it?

Happy Monday.

AM

obstacles

Don’t we all find our way around obstacles one way or another? I’m inspired, every day, by the persistence of those who know their purpose and pay it the proper attention. Stay warm. Love, AM

PS – Clearly my purpose was to practice alliteration in the second sentence of this post. And maybe even this post script. Okay, I’ve been inside for too long.

routine/ritual

For most of us, the days have a certain order. We rise, wake ourselves up through whatever means, and go about our lives doing what we do. I certainly have my routine. I go so far as to write it down in a big notebook that promises if I employ ultimate discipline to what I do with my minutes, I will see subsequent increased creativity and productivity. It promises me that if I don’t veer off the path I’ve set for myself then I will get all of the little things done and out of the way and my mind will then be clear to be my most creative and even loving because I’ll be happier that I’m not wasting my time. Of course, there are spaces for writing down what I’m grateful for, what I’m excited about, and at the end of the day I’m supposed to write down how I won (this is a little C. Sheen for me but I go with it) and also how I can do better the next day.

I like the notebook. It keeps me on track, aware of how I want and need to spend my time, and keeps me from getting bogged down in emails, little tasks, and the things that can suck the juice right of me and my day. I’d like to keep clear from the distractions of what can sometimes feel like a ridiculous, misguided world obsessed with the wrong things. It also allows me to see the shortness of every day and yes, life. Hence, I have started to not quite but almost obsessively protect my time and the notebook is my security guard. I block out time for meditation, exercise, writing, cooking, even thinking, and it all seems to flow better. But I wonder, have I become an utter bore with this mess? Am I becoming inflexible? Was I ever flexible to begin with? Is all of this necessary? Because I am a human with wide interests and a magpie soul, I think yes for now. I can imagine an older, wiser me that doesn’t need blocks of time allotted for all of the things I need to do in order to not be a failure at life, but I’m not old and wise yet.

Most successful people have a routine, we know that. Even creative people need one in order to be ready to be creative when the notion strikes. We must keep in good practice with our skill sets — for what good is lightning if you have no bottle? Good work is more often than not steady work. One of my favorite books is Mason Curry’s “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.” But today I’m wondering about the difference between routines and rituals. Routines are thought of as boring — activities we do by rote that carry us mindlessly through our days. Ritual is imbued with religious and spiritual connotation. But can routine and ritual meet? I ask myself if I might dig deeper into every activity in order to first, bring real meaning to it and second, figure out that if something doesn’t allow for real meaning if I should really be doing it. Maybe all that is needed to bring meaning to something is to be fully present while in the process of whatever it is. If I am making a cup of coffee or washing a dish or writing this sentence, can I keep the same level of awareness from one thing to the next? Can I have a present spirit and mind while I’m feeding the dog? And if I’m reading a newsletter from some “improve yourself” website because it came to my inbox and I’m zoning out, then shouldn’t I hit unsubscribe?

I’m going to get to my early afternoon ritual of making my favorite winter health tonic and maybe think further about this. If I’m thinking about it, am I doing it?
Oh, how the mind spirals.

Here’s the recipe for you:
Combine the juice from a lemon, about an index finger’s length of peeled, sliced ginger, a tablespoon of bioactive or local or raw honey, a teaspoon of turmeric, and a little cayenne pepper if you please with as much hot water as you want. I usually make a teapot full and sip on it all afternoon when I’m home. It not only tastes good but will also, I think, ward off the scurvy and whatever cold is waiting to jump on you. The cayenne will rev you up in all kinds of ways.

Happy Monday, Y’all.
AM

growth

H. gave me Ursala K. Le Guin’s “No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters,” the other day. We’d arrived in Nashville for a short holiday break together, so I put it in the small stack of books I’d planned to investigate during the time we were there. I was intrigued — I’d never read her before. LeGuin is primarily a science fiction and fantasy writer, and since I’m not particularly taken by either of those genres, I’d only come across her name.

I don’t know why he chose to buy it for me, he couldn’t remember, but I’m glad he did. It’s a collection of Le Guin’s blog posts, a forum in which she apparently finds freedom to air her concerns, thoughts, often very funny opinions, and obvious truths. Somewhere in the first 10 or 20 pages she off-handedly and elegantly suggests that the idea of economic stability co-existing with economic growth is laughable. That you can’t have both. We have a saying in my family for overlooking something that’s right under your nose. “Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a snake ’cause it would’ve bitten me.” I don’t know about y’all, but I love almost nothing more than someone showing me something that I was missing for whatever reason. Even though I’m often embarrased by my obliviousness, it’s such a relief to finally see. In this case, something I’ve heard on the news or read in the paper all of my life, and something that I accepted as a real possibility because the words were familiar, changed. I silently thanked heaven for the ability to read and remembered that’s why I do it. So that I can see a new way to think, so that my world opens up.

I then immediately applied the concept to personal matters. You can’t be stable and grow. You can’t stay the same and change. In this season of resolutions and declarations to improve, it strikes me why it’s so very hard for anyone to stick to consistent forward motion. We cling to what we know, and what we know is often the most comfortable thing. We want what feels safe, even if it’s not good for us, even if it keeps us stuck, even if it tamps down the spirit and ultimately makes us loathe ourselves for not risking happiness and fulfillment and instead taking the well-worn path that might not allow us our complete potential. I don’t happen to think the well-worn path is wrong for everyone. Somebody’s gotta stay at the house. But why are we sold a notion that compromise is spritual death and also told that adult life is, at bottom, about compromise? How can we live as if we’ll die today and also plan to live forever? The cake and the eating it too… (Le Guin also examines this saying later on in the book but that’s another topic…) Do we accept stability and growth as suitable partners because the language is familiar? Do they really go together? Can they?

I’m going to listen to “Always on a Mountain when I Fall,” and wonder why Merle thought climbing wouldn’t be a risk. I’ll just leave this right here.