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Pandemic- What Happened?

It’s been two years since I’ve written on my blog, simply because I did not make myself sit down and write. Oh, I tried, I swear I did!  I occasionally put my butt in the chair, but I could not make the words come. I thought about writing but could not make the words come because they chose to stay in some dark place, stagnant, without a journey.  Instead, I chose art as a mode of expression.  I took art classes and learned how to channel whatever was going on inside of me onto paper and canvas.  

That was before fact-based science and ridiculous conspiracy theories splintered the world, then shattered it, while a pandemic pushed us into a state of emergency.  Some of us—yes, me too—listened to the science and sheltered in place.  I delved more into my art.  I became depressed and worried.  I participated in National Novel Writing Month and got about 15,000 words of a story written.  I created more art but my well of words seemed to run dry more often than not.

The truth is, I can’t figure out what happened during this whole pandemic. I am lucky to have been  working from home since mid-2017, so the pandemic did not change my physical life much, except I could not longer go to the gym or sit at the local coffee shop and chat with friends on my lunch break.  I was also blessed to have my husband during the pandemic, not to be alone like so many other people were.

The pandemic also showed me a whole viewpoint that I was not aware of before. I found myself intolerant of people who touted conspiracy theories about the pandemic, or politicized or religicized (yes, I know this is not a real word) Covid, or simply chose not to follow health guidelines.  Now, in my own community, I have no interest in those businesses that did not respect others during the pandemic by wearing masks and following health guidelines.  I felt like I was ultra-focused on what was going on in the world instead of the stuff that I wanted to get done in my own life.

Now that things are starting to return to normal, I’m feeling more motivated to write. I recently continued working on a short story and I have been researching magazines to send my already completed stories to. I have opened a “shelved” novel and considered the ways that I can revise it or utilized parts that can go into another story.  I have actually starting put in the work required to be a writer.

The pandemic has brought to light that my belief has been that motivation is a motivator when it’s really just an excuse not to sit down and write. For me, motivation is another word for procrastination or laziness, or not taking the time to work on my stories but adding hours of guilt for making that choice. 

So, this is it—to be a writer I must write. I must take action  It might just be working on this blog today, but tomorrow it can be working on my current short story.  And the next day I might not write anything at all, or I might revise my novel. 

Words on paper equal writing. 

Writing is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent sitting down and writing.  Like I have done now. 

Journeys

So Far, So Good

In September 2017 I moved from my condominium in the city (Santa Rosa is, at least to me, a city, since the county I now live in is smaller than Santa Rosa) to the rural community of Lake County, California. I moved to Clear Lake Park, a tiny community about a ten-minute walk to the actual lake of Clear Lake, the only natural lake (not made made) in California. As I settled in with the love of my life, I prepared my condominium for rent. The people came and applied, but background checks proved that I would not be renting to any of them.

Then, the devastating Tubbs fire happened, then the Sulphur Fire that was back door to where I had moved. We were evacuated from our house for about five days, and the area where condo is was evacuated for almost two weeks. Finally, when I was able to get back in to have an open house, desperate people came in droves looking for a rental. After all was said and done, I rented to a wonderful family who had lost their home in Coffey Park, Santa Rosa. It took them a year and a half to rebuild, and now they are safely back home, and my condo is up for rental again with the imprint of the good memories they left behind.

So, having advertised an open house, I waited for those potential renters to come running up the stairs. I advertised enough so that people from far and wide would know that my darling place I had lived in for 12 years was available. I emailed all the prospective tenants who had contacted me and let them know about the open house. I had been at the condo for over an hour when only one family showed up. Then another lady came with her smile, questions, and measuring tape. She took notes and filled out an application.

To be honest, I had anticipated the lull because the market is not as in demand anymore. After the fires, people relocated elsewhere, or they are still renting, waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

So, I think today’s experience might be the Universe’s way of telling me it’s time for change- to release my 12-year past in my charming condo and move on. To let go this part of me, this house with good energy and history embedded in its’ fabric, to allow others to come and fill the rooms with their own joyous memories.

So far, so good. I am a true believer that my past has brought me to the place I am today. My past does not dictate who I am, but it has helped shape me into the self-sufficient and confident woman that my mother raised me to be.

Mom told me to get an education, find a career, and learn how to support myself. I did.

She told me to create my own life outside of a man. I did.

She told me not to marry the first man who came along. I did not, but I had a short union with the second man out of desperation and feeling like I was a late bloomer beside women my age.

I asked my mother why she wanted those things for me, and she said it was because she did not want me to be like her.

My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had a heart of gold and loved my brothers and me fiercely and was always there for us to the best of her ability. But, she was also raised in a time when she could not experience the things she wanted for me- so, I have been sharing this journey with her.

My mother passed away from cancer long before seeing the mistakes I made along the way and the life I have today, but I am sure she is smiling down on me now- no, she is beaming as I embark on this journey, with four months closer to marrying my best friend, the love of my life.

In fact, she would love him.

She would say…..so far, so good.



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Commitment

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Years end is about reflection and the New Year about welcoming. There is no more self-scolding about what I could have done, and no more resolutions about what I will do. There are only possibilities arising from what has been and what can be, life-enriching snippets that bring me into the present.

The Ghost of Should’ve Done Past

I have always beat myself up for not writing more, especially as December progresses toward the first day of January. I tell myself nasty lies that elicit guilt for not doing.  I would be a successful author today if I had finished writing that novel instead of allowing 365 days of dust to gather on my hard drive, or invited those characters invading my head-space to a robust life on the pages of a short story.  Oh, if only I had queried that article on world views in a small community, I would now be a big-name journalist.

If only, if only is such a self-debilitating disease, along with should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.

Yes, I scold myself for neglecting the things that I was not ready to do and create more excuses for me to wallow in self-pity and guilt.  After all, if I had been ready to finish that novel or write that short story, they would be done by now. 

This ghost wants me to show me all my failures in a light where nothing outside of what I should’ve done looks good.

The Ghost of Resolutions Future

Each year I make resolutions to get stuff done. I make a pact with myself to finish that novel this year that I did not complete last year, to write more short stories, to start being this and stop being that, to start doing this and stop doing that, and to become an all-around better person.

Yes, I resolve in the New Year to become a different person, so much so that not even I might recognize myself!

Well, the truth is that resolutions are just mumbo-jumbo derived from the guilt of letting another year go by without working on the projects that burn in my soul but somehow never get done. Resolutions are a by-product of disappointment over my character traits that lead me down roads that are not healthy for me, so I tell myself that it’s time to start taking a different road. To make a long story short, the ghost of resolutions future wants to lead me into the land of unrealistic expectations.  

The Angel of Perfect Present

Now that I am in present-day 2019, I can clearly see how I have set myself up for failure by allowing the Ghost of Should’ve Done Past and the Ghost of Resolutions Future to rule my life.  There is no power in beating myself for what I have not done or in making that wicked list of resolutions.

The Angel of Perfect Present has clearly shown me that resolutions have no solid foundations, therefore making them pre-meditated disappointments.

The Angel of Perfect Present teaches me that everything I do must be in the moment, in the here and now.  If I am truly serious about picking up old projects or starting new ones, I must take the first step, and followed by a second step, and continue taking those steps down that winding path with plenty of forks in the road until I arrive at my desired destination.

Now, destination does not always mean a completed project, but perhaps the building of smaller parts of a puzzle until the picture is complete.  This can take an hour, a week, sometimes a year or more.  In fact, it takes however long it takes! 

In the past I have limited resolutions to fiction writing, all the while beating myself up for not getting those words on paper.  Berating myself for not realizing how my characters and what they want.  It’s all this negativity that I have allowed to stand in my way of realizing my accomplishments.

In fact, if I take a good hard look at my life’s panorama, I write just about every single day in my work as a paralegal.  A big part of that life is taking facts of cases and putting them into…what?  A factual story, which in the writing world is called non-fiction. While I love to write about cases, I admit I am motivated by that paycheck twice a month, and the accolades I receive when I do a good job. 

So, now I’m back to the fact that I would love to complete my novel as well as write more short stories.  Well, this requires me to come up with a plan, or a commitment to write so many words or spend a half-hour or an hour working on my novel. I even have the option to commit myself to writing two or three times a week, or every other day, whatever works for me. The point being, until I take that first action step (which I have not), this wanting, if you will, is nothing but a resolution either being tossed around or waiting to be executed into a solid plan.

Maybe instead of ending this article by saying, “Yep, that’s it, the plan is in place,” perhaps I will make a commitment to write on my blog next Saturday.  If I put something on my calendar, I am committed.   So, there……I have entered my next blog to be written on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at 8 a.m. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be. 

Remember, no more resolutions, just commitments. 

2018 · New Year · resolutions · Uncategorized

Welcome 2018!

design-3047520_12802017 brought tragedies and triumphs. The big tragedy was being laid off in July of that year, with a resulting triumph of retiring as a paralegal and starting my own business. The even bigger tragedy were the October fires in Santa Rosa and Clearlake, two communities very dear to me, followed by the triumph of many people choosing to rebuild.

I am a true believer that every dark cloud has light waiting to break through, but recognizing triumph after tragedy takes time and healing.

While my partner and I did not lose personal possessions in the fire and were able to return to our home in Clearlake Park. Our condominium in Santa Rosa near Coffee Park was also spared. Even though we were blessed, I know that terrifying feeling of almost losing everything—my precious cats, treasures from my deceased mother and grandmother, documented family history archives, and childhood mementos. My animals and personal belongings are the things that have brought me to the place I am today.

Once the fires were over and we were back home safely, I started seeing the light breaking through what seemed like several months of dark clouds. I began thinking about what is important to me, and as I took that leap from 2017 into 2018 I devised a plan to make 2018 a better year by choosing to:

1. Show family and friends each day how much I love and appreciate them.
2. Stand up for what I believe in and fight against corruption.
3. Prepare in case another disaster strike by having an evacuation plan in place to keep ourselves and our animals safe and to preserve treasured items.
4. Treat my fiction writing as a job. Make time to write every day.
5. Treat my non-fiction writing as a job. Make time to look for paid writing gigs.
6. Continue to grow my business as a notary and loan signing agent. Market, market, market, and show my value through my final product.
7. Make a sustainable income from my notary/loan signing work and writing.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2018!

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Olive Picking Party

OLIVES

Every year in early November we look forward to an olive picking party where there is the harvesting of olives from hundreds of trees in a vast orchard. While out picking, sometimes the conversation is humorous and lively, other times serious and introspective, but one thing is for certain; when the voices cease the only sound is the rhythmic thump of olives landing onto tarps and into buckets—like beating hearts working together toward a common goal.

While an olive is an olive, the people who attend this party come from varied places and lifestyles. As a community, we pick from late morning to lunch, share in a fabulous midday meal, go back to the orchard and continue harvesting, then head back inside for supper and dessert. Once our bellies are satisfied, we gather in the living room where musicians play guitars, mandolins, and other instruments, and several join in the singing of age-old songs.

This year, the olive picking party was bittersweet following life-changing events—the May 2017 passing of Marilyn, the matriarch of the family holding the event, and the aftermath of the October fires in Lake County and the surrounding counties. Even with such loss, the unspoken consensus was that death, whether human or nature, encourages new life and opportunity for growth.

With fondness, we laughed about how Marilyn, even well into her eighties, facilitated engaging and outright fun charades. She had the special gift of seeing the good in people, of making each of us feel as if we were the most special person in the room. In fact, I’m sure Marilyn was present in spirit that night to enjoy the conversations about her!

With compassion, we shared how the fires affected us directly or indirectly. Some of us had been evacuated and talked about how we dealt with the fear of losing our homes, and about family and friends who lost everything in the Santa Rosa fires. Others were not in the fire zone but helplessly watched from afar, and listened to the news, not knowing what to do or how to help. No matter what our experience, it was clear that everyone felt a deep gratitude for what we had in that very moment.

Now, with the olive picking party in distant memory and Christmas and the new year quickly approaching, my hope is that I will continue to live in gratitude and pay forward to my community the many blessings that have been given to me.

Happy holidays to all.