Setting the intention

I began today with a little yoga.

Scratch that. (Yes, I did do yoga, but…) I woke up late, to the strident sounds of the geriatric felines, yowling for breakfast and crying in blind confusion like a fussy infant, respectively. My head was fuzzy and I felt like I was being pried from a glorious dream world. I went to bed just a little too late last night, after knitting and baking most of the evening, and drinking just a touch too much wine. Knitting and alcohol are an odd couple, but somehow they seem meant to go hand in hand.

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Be Where Now?

The final weeks of the calendar year offer an easy excuse for nostalgia, although I sometimes think I’m plagued by perpetual nostalgia, to a point where I sometimes refer to myself as a nostalgiac, or perhaps  nostalgiaholic. Or maybe, barring a bunch of silly neologism and thinly disparaging labels, it’s just a lot of unrealized dreams and sometimes plain and simple regrets tinged with wistful longing.

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Writing Sucks

“If wanting money is crass, then wanting fame – or, at the very least, some kind of recognition – is worse. Because you’re not supposed to create with an audience in mind; that kind of thinking is for people who use words like “brand” and “content.” A true artist only ever makes things that are a perfect reflection of their most precious ideas, without ever wondering how other people will react. Who cares how people react? People are peasants, and if they don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate then the failure is theirs and theirs alone.

But, like, fuck that. Fuck all of that. Why are people allowed to want money for literally any other job besides creative work? I know writing is supposed to be a vocation or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you only ever do it without expecting payment. I’m not out here expecting free childcare because my son’s daycare teachers are performing a labour of love or whatever. And sure people should be making things that they’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever possibly consider their potential audience. What is so filthy-dirty wrong about wanting success?” – The Belle Jar blog

The Belle Jar

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.

It sucks for all the reasons I’d expected: the weeks and weeks of writer’s block, the stilted clichés that sneak out the moment you’re not vigilant enough, the grinding frustration of trying unsnarl a set of words that for whatever reason just won’t do what you want them to do. I knew about all that stuff and, on some level, was prepared for it; after all, these are all things that I’ve experienced to some degree as a semi-professional freelance writer. What I wasn’t ready for was my inability to justify writing a book. Every time I open that goddamn Word document all I feel is this rush of ugly panic, and the cloud of oh my god what am I doing why am I doing this displaces every confident thought I’ve managed to muster up.

Here’s what I’ve realized: I am afraid of…

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Raise Your Eyebrow

Let’s agree to teach our kids that it’s bullshit. Being who you are is beautiful. Sure, acne may never be on the cover of Teen Vogue with a headline that says, “Whiteheads: So Hot Right Now!” but so what? Everything else will come full circle, and pimples go away eventually — or so I’m told.

So if your child is in the midst of waging the unwinnable battle that is puberty, or even if he or she is just making some questionable grooming choices along the windy, circuitous path to self-acceptance, try to resist the urge to step in with a save.

From HuffPo Parents today, I couldn’t resist the awkwardly cute photo and nod along with what author Una LaMarche had to say on the topic of everyone’s favorite developmental phase. Even if it’s painful. We’ve all been there, even the most conventionally beautiful among us to the homelier ends of the spectrum. Having our caretakers affirm that we are lovable and beautiful just the way we are can be powerful, in the present and later on. Except perhaps where it comes to being hygienic, conforming to ridiculous ever-mercurial beauty standards is an impossible chase and you will never, ever catch up. Three cheers to those who can role model this kind of ethos to their offspring.

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Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

You can read the rest of David Brooks’ excellent Op-Ed piece from the NYT here.

A thought provoking piece for any of us who are struggling with these dilemmas and finding our own ways to define success and finding meaning in daily life.

Navel gazing and wanderlust in harsh climates

I don’t understand this soul-searching, ‘find yourself’ thing that your generation does. When I was your age, I had to find a career path and a job quickly, to make money and to support my family. That was the choice. I just had to do it.

I can still hear with perfect clarity the inflection and words of Ben, my friend and co-worker, a retiree who ran field drops (also known as Backup) of water and supplies for the groups of kids and staff  at my wilderness therapy job in the high desert hinterlands of northeastern Utah. Before his time in this position, something he did more for the social contact than any kind of necessary supplemental income, Ben had lived another life a world away, as a successful businessman in foreign cities and distant lands. Prior to that, he had been in the military, doing much the same. At one point in the midst of all that, he lost both his wife and his daughter in a tragic car accident. He never seemed bitter or marred by the experience, merely reflective and always just a little sad, though possibly gentler, with a steely reserve and an undeniable, unflappable ethic. He always treated me with a fatherly kindness, tempered by gentle ribbing and sarcasm applied at the moments when I took myself too seriously or allowed the actions of others to puncture my all too transparently thin skin. All of this was balanced by a decent amount of “now, listen here” tough love.

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Time out of mind

Time out of mind

“For almost three years, I didn’t touch my brushes once. I thought that I was done painting.

But as I studied what I love, I began to need art again. So I returned to my paintings. Now my life has become a rhythm of wilderness wanderlust and long hours spent painting afterwards. I stumbled into a life that feels well lived and it all started with, “What do you want to see out the window every morning?

I wanted to see the woods…”

See more of the beautiful nature-inspired art of Janie Stapleton here.