So many years I started the day off with resolutions:

I will lose weight. I will exercise more. I will make better grades, and so on…

I read something the other day that pointed out that too often resolutions reinforce the negative aspects of our lives. Our failures and shortcomings.

As I muddle through middle age, I tend to agree with that assessment. Which is why a few years ago I stopped making resolutions and started setting goals. If you don’t meet the goal, chances are you can still measure progress.

There’s also the idea of developing good habits- I will exercise changed to:

    I will strive for 10,000 steps a day. I will set a goal of walking five days a week. 

So the measurable goals:

Last year I set a goal to download all of my poems, sort them by theme and print them for myself. I started, but I didn’t finish. Did I achieve the goal? No, but I did make significant progress.

I set a reading goal last year. Sixty books was challenging, and I made it just under the buzzer, so that’s a goal to strive for again this year.

Some goals are hard to measure- being kinder, or being more positive. I have only my inner compass to gauge whether I am successful or not.

The immeasurable goals:

Here’s one that can only be measured internally- being true to myself, to mentally stop worrying so much about pleasing others or keeping the peace. In business we must cooperate and work as a team, but I speak up more for what I think is equitable in the workplace. I need to apply this to the personal sphere as well.

Finally, the writing goals.

I did not write enough in 2017. I can point to many reasons why I did not write.  Looking back at those setbacks did not shame me, but helped me remove the obstacles to writing more this year.  I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can do a better job of carving out regular time to sit with pen and paper and get some words down.

As I get older I realize January resolutions, goals, good habits or new dreams aren’t so much about changing myself- it’s about challenging me to keep growing and evolving.

What dreams, goals, or good habits do you hope to achieve in 2018?

©annettealaine2018

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Short of the Goal

I’ve fallen short of my goal this year. I wanted to write more and figured once we moved and college girl returned to school, I would sit on my porch with a laptop and just let the words flow like the river below me.

Ten months later, I have decreased to the point that some of my old writing pals thought I gave it up.

I could blame it on the longer commute to and from work. I could mention all the creative juices I expend on a normal day for my job. I could point out that my exercise routine has increased dramatically, and as a result I have less time for writing, but the bottom line is I haven’t felt the spark for many months.

I read more than I write these days. I don’t know why the muse has abandoned me, but for now it’s on an extended hiatus.

I read more news articles, and then devour fiction to escape the bleakness of our world right now.  Writing fiction would be a lovely antecdote to the daily newsfeed, but I cannot make up any plot stranger, or create characters weirder than the people running our government.

I write in my head quite a bit as I walk early in the morning. Not poems about the beauty I see, but angry posts as I respond to male letter writers in the local paper who still shame and blame women for “dressing inappropriately” at work.

Mostly though, I’m spending my time re-examining my own voice. Who am I, and why do I feel my work matters?

My goal this year was to get all of my poetry gathered, sorted and printed in some form. The task remains half finished.

I’m not angry or disappointed in what I have not accomplished this year- that’s not productive and never works as motivation.

Instead of lamenting what did not get done, I am going to let myself figure out if writing still fits into my life. And if so, where and when do I make time for it. Developing healthy habits this year was a goal that I’ve achieved physically. Now it’s time to check my creative habits and decide what to aim for in 2018.

©annettealaine2017

The Drought

The Drought

Blame it on the weather.

The rain should give me the motivation to write because I can’t walk or sit on the porch, so I have no other activities to hold me back.

But my muse is taking a break.

I haven’t had any recent revelations, no existential crisis, and nary a deep thought in weeks.

Perhaps a vacation will help.

 

I have no plans for my upcoming vacation. It doesn’t feel right even calling it “vacation.” I’m not headed for the mountains, or the lake, or another city- I’m staying home and doing the usual stuff. The only difference is I don’t have to go to work.

I usually use a portion of my vacation to tackle a project I don’t make time for- going through the closets or cleaning out the garage. But, I did that months ago as I prepared for our big move.

Maybe the secret is not about time to write but about giving myself the space to think and dream. To sit, observe, taste new words, roll sentences around on my tongue and string together a group of words or sentences to form a poem, or story.

Perhaps my muse will return from her journey soon, refreshed and renewed.

I hope so.

©annettealaine2017

 

 

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

 

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I’m reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland. It’s an excellent story about the women’s department at Tiffany Glass and their artistic contributions to the Tiffany brand, particularly his famous Tiffany lamps.

The themes of artists and how they create, and how women fought to work in the arts and crafts fields is well documented and sobering. Clara’s struggle is still real in many ways- for me personally it’s the balance of writing while juggling the demands of my life: work, marriage and family.

I’ve read all the books on how to carve time to write. I’ve tried writing prompts, creating a space to write, and formulating a daily routine to sit down in front of the computer (or picking up a pen.)

But, for me, it’s not that simple. I need quiet time to clear my mind of all its incessant chatter. Then there is the clamoring for attention by others. Sometimes I walk with earbuds connected to a silent iPod. I want to get lost in my thoughts as I breathe in the world around me.

I drive to work with the radio off. I often try composing poetry in my head as I drive. Today, I was writing this post as I waited at traffic lights. Sometimes it works.

But, more often I am distracted by the host of other people and tasks that fill my day. Here’s what typically happens:

I went for my walk Thursday evening and passing a mosaic that resides under the bridge I had an idea for my next blog post. I composed some of it as I continued to walk. When I stepped in the door I quickly showered and changed and went out to eat with my husband.

I keep composing in my head as I got ready for bed. I will sit down first thing in the morning and get this down I thought. Then I woke up and remembered my dentist appointment. And then the boss called and I had to go in and fix something at work. And then I remembered I needed to get the cat flea medicine and we were out of toilet paper…

You get the drift. I didn’t write that day. On Saturday I tried again, but by then the words sounded stale and the distractions around me kept me from recapturing the feelings I had Thursday evening.

Maybe I am just not disciplined enough. Or maybe I don’t value my talent or my time.

Clara knew the men in the Tiffany Glass Company did not think she was a serious artist. But she believed she was and she fought for her right to create.

Food for thought.

©annettealaine2017

 

Motivation Saturday

Motivation Saturday

Yesterday was a lesson in motivation. My husband was up with the sun as I rolled over and decided to sleep in on a Saturday. Nothing planned. No place to be. It was heaven.

Sitting on the porch later with a cup of coffee and a perfectly toasted english muffin, I watched boats head out for the day. I thought of grabbing my laptop and writing a poem, but I was as lazy as the cat dozing in the sun.

Husband had an idea- why not go to the Jax Book Fest across the river at the library. Rather than taking a power walk, why not head across the bridge and explore?

Motivation to work up an appetite for lunch and maybe find a new book to read. I was up for the challenge.

This was the inaugural year of the book fest. Local authors-many genres represented: children’s lit, YA, romance, paranormal, non-fiction, and one book of poetry. I headed over to speak to the gentleman poet. His poetry was quirky but empowering. I walked away and later decided to go back and buy his slim volume. He was so grateful he autographed the book twice!

I spoke to a local newspaper columnist who has had national success with his book about a year exploring National Parks. Lassoing the Sun, by Mark Woods, weaves two stories- his sabbatical from the paper to spend a year at hand-picked parks to learn about them and the rangers who protect them, and about his mother who with Mark’s dad, taught him to love our national treasures by spending vacations at various parks.

I thanked Mark for visiting my place of work- a historic church on the St. Johns River as part of a newspaper series he recently completed- walking through Jacksonville. Our city is the largest in square footage in the U.S. but it is filled with beltways, highways but few sidewalks.

My question for him was- when are you going to write a book based on this series? He and I began talking about the time it takes to write a book, and the fear that there won’t be an interest in reading something you put your heart into. I assured him I know many people, myself included, who would love to read the whole series in book form. Blogging a book- he had never heard of such a thing! He agreed to give it serious thought. I walked away amazed that I had motivated a published author to keep writing!

As we walked down the grand staircase towards the exit, we spotted a mutual friend- a musician and author of three books published locally. As we caught up he turned to me and asked why he had not seen any poems lately on my blog. I explained that 2016 seemed to be a bad year for my writing, and my promise to begin 2017 writing more had fizzled as we geared up to move.

He told me my poems were good and that he always enjoyed them. He asked if I ever thought of publishing them. Of course I’ve thought about it fleetingly and then decided no one wants to read poetry, and about ten more excuses. He said, No excuses. Just do it. Pull them together and do it. And next year, you can have a table right next to mine. 

Motivation Saturday.

Just do it.

©annettealaine2017

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The Kindness Project

 

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I have self-titled writing project called The Kindness Project.

I’ve always tried to be kind, but I have to admit, for the last few years, I’ve felt drained of good will. And I been hardest on myself.

What I know so far to be truth is this: If you don’t practice self-kindness, you cannot offer sincere kindness to anyone else.

I’ve been reading about the art of kindness. Kindness is fierce- you often have to push yourself to offer this grace to yourself, and others. Have no expectations of reward especially from others. This sets up the trap of feeling like a pushover or being taken advantaged of for your kind acts. Take small steps and don’t measure them, just do the best you can. That’s the essence of being kind to yourself. Finally, if you are disappointed because someone didn’t respond to your kindness as you wished, let go of that expectation. Accept the disappointment and then let go of it. Have mercy on yourself.

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After six days of intentional practice here’s the preliminary results of the Kindness Project:

  • I am more in tune with my own feelings.  I had a bad asthma attack last weekend and have been pretty jacked up on medication this week. I gave myself permission to feel the illness and not just buck up and keep on going like I usually do. I ate what I craved and I didn’t beat myself up for not exercising this week (other than some light yoga stretching.) I allowed my spirit to heal my aching lungs. And I feel better, even though I’m not yet healed.

 

  • I was more aware of how I was talking to others- at home, at work, in the store. I listened for the tone behind the words they spoke. And by attentively listening, I was able to offer the kind words they seemed to need.

 

  • I made a conscious effort to let people know how much they help or encourage me. That one gesture seemed to reap the greatest reward. We all like to hear we are not toiling in a vacuum.

 

  • I am less stressed, less impatient with others or circumstances. As I waited for a train to move off the tracks this morning so I could get to the next place to be, I sat in silence,  watched the sky turn pink and blue. I observed a flock of swallows form black v’s across the painted sky. I concentrated on my breathing. It was seven minutes of blissful time out.

 

  • I am aware that despite all the hatred, intolerance and pure meanness that is bombarding the country right now, its real toll is masking the millions of tiny acts of kindness that happen every second of the day. I am blocking out the negative, and concentrating on searching for each little act of kindness I can extend while acknowledging kindness extended to me.

The Kindness Project couldn’t have come at a better time. We all need to be gentle and kind to ourselves and extend the grace of kindness to each other- now more than ever.

©annettealaine2016

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Soul Work

The soul work we do is so subtle, so easily postponed to another day, so low sometimes, on the list of priorities.~ Katrina Kenison- Moments of Seeing

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This Friday morning I’ve checked email, washed a load of clothes, straightened up, turned on the dishwasher and generally distracted myself with busy-ness, while inside my soul cries- sit down and write!

I can easily find one hundred ways to keep myself from taking care of my needs. A demanding job, a large house to keep neat, groceries to buy, dinner to prepare, emails to answer, and loved ones who need my presence.

The autumn years are a stark reminder to recalibrate your priorities. Once defined by my roles: wife, daughter, sister, mother, teacher, caregiver, volunteer, friend- manyhave changed over the past ten years, some by circumstance, others because I’ve changed my focus.

I no longer look at my work as a career choice. It’s labor put out to receive the money I need to live a life. Salary was once my measuring stick of success. Now I want the freedom to leave work at the office door, and enjoy my leisure hours without checking in to get ahead.

Parenting is now done at a distance; all the kids are grown and out of the nest. There is a new freedom that comes from not having anyone directly dependent on you any longer. The challenge becomes not filling these hours with meaningless tasks.

It’s time to listen to my soul and put my needs first. Women give so much of themselves to their families and many others who need nurturing. It’s our nature. But we don’t nurture ourselves.

Last evening I arrived home after a chaotic day at the end a chock full week. I thought of all the tasks I had waiting at the door, but instead of diving into my next job, I filled the tub with warm water, chose a beverage, the book I’m reading and dropped in a fragrant bath bomb. Thirty minutes of quiet time just for me.

My soul work for the day.

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