So, I'm about a week into my two week plan and I am doing well. All of the furniture is moved, cleaned and fixed, not that much needed fixing. There are new overhead light fixtures installed in the entire apartment, the floors and wall boards have nearly all been washed, anything that needed to go has gone and now it is down to just the detail work.
I still have piles and piles of books to go through, and most of the ones I am not keeping will likely hang around until mid-June when my church has its annual yard sale. Seems like as good a place as any to dump them. I expect that the kitchen will be done tomorrow, with the living room and hallway done by Thursday.
There are still a couple of pieces of furniture waiting for my brother to come collect. But, in fairness, he is waiting for me to give him the go-ahead. One piece is a book shelf that I have to sort and empty before he cane come to get it.
My apartment is much more airy and light, and it makes me very happy. I think the over-all effect is much better than I had hoped for.
The final stage - the majority of the second week - will be spent in putting the 'writer's den' together. I have a little work done on that, but there are still a couple of more decisions to make before I can finalize things.
Then comes the real work; the actual writing. Egads, it seemed so much further away last week when I decided to do this! I don't think I really expected to make this much progress this quickly!
I've set a two week plan for thinning out my apartment, getting rid of things I no longer need or want, rearranging all of the furniture and setting up a comfortable, usable 'writer's den'. Two weeks. 14 days. It seems line an eternity now, but the clock is running.
Stage one - revitalize an antique buffet that has been in the family for years, and has been in my living room, as a crafts or games chest, for a good long while. Since my mother passed away andI inherited her china I have wanted a safe place to store it. I've also wanted a nice side-board in the kitchen, so the buffet will serve both purposes. It needed a fair amount of work, and thanks to a friend who is a lot braver than I am, that has been accomplished.
Stage two - get rid of a few pieces of furniture, rearrange the apartment, clean and polish the floors (okay - I may be stretching the use of the word 'polish' here, but you get the hint...). On Thursday of this week I have invited my oldest brother and a friend to come help me with this task. By Thursday evening I am hoping that this is completely accomplished. Two pieces of furniture are leaving and going to the houses of other friends. A lot of the rest of the furniture will be rearranged, and possibly used for purposes that it is not being used for right now. The bad news - it sounds like a lot of work. The good news - I have a plan!
Stage three - Dump all CDs to my computer and to my back up hard drive. Take CDs to used CD store to sell them. Rearrange all DVDs and put them in smaller cases so that they are stored more easily. I have a ridiculous number of CDs and a decent number of DVDs. They take up a lot of space. It's time to thin out the herd. I really have no need of keeping the CDs. I run most of my music off of my netbook or BlackBerry now, anyway, using a pair of speakers my nephew gave me, so the CDs are just taking up space. This project is about halfway complete.
Stage four - rearrange and thin out my books. This will be the most painful part of the project. I am shamefully attached to my books. The idea of getting rid of any of them causes me great distress. And yet I know that there are many that can easily go. It's just getting used to the idea...
Stage five - thin out pots and pans. Get rid of duplicate or unnecessary stuff from the kitchen. I have a ton of cabinet space in my kitchen and it is all filled to overflowing. There's a lot of stuff I don't need and don't use. Guilt makes me keep most of it, because most of it was given to me as gifts from various people. Sorry, folks. It's time for this crap to go. The difficulty is that I do love to cook, so I need to approach this project wisely and cautiously. I don't want to regret it later.
Stage six - The Writer's Den! I have a reading and meditation nook that has been in use in my apartment for years. I go through periods where I don't use it very much, but when I do I get a great sense of peace and accomplishment from the time I spend there. I have put this back into use, and I intend to model the 'writer's den' after the reading/meditation corner. I want there to be a sense of peace in this area. I want there to be a sense of order and a sense of fun. I want there to be useful books on writing, etc, and I want there to be silly toys that I can play with, that may seem like a distraction, but that will help to keep me rooted there in those moments when I should be attending to my writing, even if I'm not actually writing. I have a Nerf basketball and hoop, I have my juggling stuff, I have a lot of notebooks with bits and pieces of writing projects in them.I have colorful pens and nifty notebooks that need to be filled. There will be free-hanging shelves along one slanted wall and there will be awesome bookends to adorn them. I will be using white boards to doodle on and to keep notes and time-lines on, and I may have a fish. Who knows? I will name him Bob. Or maybe Javier. It's all in the details. Key to this part of the plan is purchasing a new, comfortable and usable desk and chair. Hmmm. I don't know what I want. Shopping to commence after all of the other furniture is rearranged.
Stage 7 - and this is outside of the two week plan - tear down the wallpaper in the bedroom and paint the room blue. Hang attractive paintings, a big, glorious sun on one wall and very little else. I have no idea when I will get this done, but it is on the 'to-do' list for this year. It is the last room in the apartment that needs to be repainted. I hate painting and papering. Ick.
I lay this all down in my blog, so that you may be "witnesses" to my victory or my defeat. Honestly, after all of this is accomplished, what is there left to do write?
I have been pondering the act of writing lately. Writing has been a part of my life since the earliest days that I can recall of my childhood. I have been with a fairly consistent writing group for about 15 or 20 years now and I enjoy the craft and companionship quite a bit.
There was a time in my life that words flowed through me like water. The pinnacle of this was a period of about 3 years where I was writing poetry so prolifically that I had to carry an electronic voice recorder, or a pad of paper and a pen, with me every minute of every day because entire poems would pop into my head, completed, spontaneously and often. It was like being addicted to cocaine. It was an amazing high. A sensation of truly living and being connected...to everything! It was like being a conduit to some unknown being who desperately needed me to push these words out onto paper, perhaps for the world to see. It was an imperative! It was knowing the truths of the universe. I was let in on the secrets of life!
When that went away I felt like something had been stolen from me. I was sad and lonely for a very long time, but I never really told anyone. I felt like my best friend had left me; my greatest love had fled. I felt unloved and unworthy. I felt like I was being punished, and maybe I was because I was squandering a generous gift.
These days I'm lucky if I can string a coherent sentence together. And it's taken me a long while to figure out what the heck is going on, but I might actually be there! I may actually have sorted out the issues.
First, I am an ENFP or ENTP or some anagram like that. What this means is that my personality lends me to enjoy starting projects but fail at finishing them. And this is VERY true to my nature. I love the thrill of new things, but despise the drudgery of finishing them.
Second, I have no desire to publish. I thought I had the desire to publish, but I could really care less. I write for myself, first, which is just fine. But I need to cultivate some interest in publishing all of this stuff, or there is no real reason to keep going. Without the interest in publishing, or even entering some of my stories or poems into contests, there is little to spur me own.
Third, and probably most important, it has finally occurred to me that writing... the act of writing well... means that you have to separate your writing self into two people. Jack Heffron, in "The Writer's Idea Book" calls these two personalities The Writer and The Author. I might call them The Writer and The Publisher because, as Heffron points out, they have two different, potentially opposing, functions. The Writer has to be the creative self; the one who desires to put words and ideas onto paper, to create situations and characters, and to draw resolutions for them. The Writer is the one who loved to play with words! The Publisher has to be an editor and an agent; that person who desires to close the deal... to finish the project... to get it 'out there'. The Publisher is a very serious sort. The two cannot coexist. They have to remain separate. If locked in the same room together they will not get along. They will argue about purpose and time spent and they will have two differing goals. The Writer has to come along first, and only when The Writer is done can The Publisher (or The Author) step in. At that very moment The Writer has to go away, unless called back by The Publisher to do more work.
I absolutely am The Writer. I want to create and play, not deal with the serious business. To continue the craft I must cultivate The Publisher in me. And even though I say this I can already feel myself cringing away from that part of me that needs to be cultivated. It seems a disgusting, evil thing to me. It gives me the creeps. Is this my dark side? Ewwww.
If that is your dark side, you are too good. Sounds like the Publisher is all about discipline. I wish I had more Publisher in me too. Ignore it for a while if you don't enjoy that part. It's not like writing is something that you have to live off of. Why isn't joy and the "high" enough to keep you going?
First of all, congrats on your blog! I think you are very brave to do it. This entry on writing is revealing and helps me know you a bit more. I'm very glad you shared this with me.
I relate to the different selves from a zen perspective where they are described as creator and critic, or child and adult. As you say, they can't be active at the same time or else they conflict with or negate each other and generate a negative state of mind that is toxic to producing anything of value.
Examples of how they can support each other ... the critic can schedule play time for the creator, and work time for itself, and ensure that those appointments are kept. And it's not just business ... the critic can declare that a particular writing session is for creating, exploring, and playing; and another session is for editing or researching.
The critic needs the creator to generate material it can work with; the creator needs the critic to keep raising the standard for what is good writing, channel the energy, and decide how best to publish the work.
I had a music teacher who made me close my eyes and imagine how Gabriel the trumpeter in the bible would sound if he played the music I was about to play. Then I had to play the piece while hearing that same heavenly music in my head and imitate that. So my task while practicing was to be able to more perfectly replicate what was in my head, and my task while away from the horn was to improve the quality of what I heard in my head by listening to more music, analyzing what was good about it, and seeking out better performances.
I think that writing can be approached in the exact same way. Keep reading and analyzing films, etc to improve your range and ability to conceive of narrative and character, and keep writing to see if you can make what shows up on the page more closely resemble your internal ideal.
These concepts work really well for me when I can apply them, but I'm a spoiled child (as you say you are) in that I just want to play. At those times, it's hard for me to see that an adult approach to writing is beneficial and can allow for a different kind of fun.
I can't understand your problem... I mean, I turned on my computer to do some writing.. but then checked email, then joined a Google Account, then commented on your post, then... what will I do next to keep from actually getting some writing done? Oh wait, that's what you were saying to begin with, perhaps it's a symptom we get from those around us... sorry if I spread it to you. Or was it Bill, or.. no, couldn't be Karen, she finish's what she starts. ;)
Bill, excellent insight, as always. Love the wisdom of your music teacher. If I stopped to ponder in any way, shape or form before I acted half of the time I would be nicer, more productive and more economical in all areas of my life. Alas, though I understand the wisdom, I rarely put it into action.
I think the writing area I am creating will lend itself to a more relaxed feel, and will invite me to stay and ponder things more readily. I've already put my meditation corner back into use in my life and I see great, positive things becauce of it. All in just a few short days.
In general it is hard to accept who we are. As human beings we have a hard time accepting and even understanding the deepest, most intimate qualities of ourselves. This is why we have heroes. This is why we have people who we can look up to. And, I imagine, this is also why we look for faults in those around us. Knowing that others aren't perfect makes us feel a little bit better when we face our own imperfections.
As a Christian I know a God who calls himself, "I am who I am". That's a pretty cloudy statement on the surface, but as we get to know God - as we learn to establish a personal relationship with him - we come to understand that "I am who I am" is the perfect way to think of him. He is different for all of us. He is different to different individual people and he is different to individual cultures. And yet, at his core, he is the same to all of us.
Isn't that a vexing thought? God is different to us all and yet he is the same. He is in heaven and yet he is all around us here on earth. He is an all knowing and all powerful being (for lack of a better word) and yet he is our closest friend. He is a mystery, and so, I ask you, is it any mystery that we are a mystery to ourselves?
If we are truly created in the image of a God who is "I am who I am" then why can't we accept ourselves for who we are? Why do we strive to be like our friends, our mentors, our family members, our heroes, or even the fictional characters that we involve in our lives? Why do we strive to be something other than who we are, particularly when we put ourselves in relationship to God who knows no bounds and who is always seeing us exactly as who we are. After all, he created us!
Let me shift the focus to myself for clarification. I bask in a relationship with God. I have chosen to enter into a two-way relationship with him (at its base form). I have accepted a contract with him, a deep enough relationship with him, where I have agreed to become so intimate with him that I offer full disclosure of my faults, my sins, my deepest fears and sorrows, and all of the joys and triumphs of my life. I lay it all on the line for him to see. Because Adam and Eve are such great role models in their failure in the garden I don't bother to try to hide anything from God anymore. I know he is there, watching over me, involved in everything I do or fail to do; aware of it before I am aware of it myself.
So why, then, if I know God is so fully present to and aware of my activities, and if I know that he created me, wrote me on the keyboard of life and painted a picture of me to spark my creation, why do I hide from myself? If I know that I can't fool God, why do I try to fool myself? If I believe that God is "I am who I am" and that he created me, why can't I accept that I am who I am? I am who I am! There is nothing that I can do about it, and yet I can't resist the urge to fight against it and wish (at times) that I were like someone else!
And furthermore, why, since deciding to declare myself a Christian a few years ago, why do I find that my relationship with God has changed? Why do I find that that relationship takes work now? I am no more or less aware of his presence in my life now than I was back then. He's never been missing from my life. But now that I have entered into this full disclosure relationship with him I don't feel his presence as naturally as I once did.
I thought as a child, back in my Taoist days, and so I trusted and lived faithfully as a child. But now that I have signed this agreement with God, now that I have entered into the fully-aware Christian arena, my relationship with him is dampened by the realities and responsibilities of the faith. You would think this would help, but it doesn't.
Yes, my friends, life is a big mystery. God is a gigantic mystery. You and I are little, mini-mysteries. It's all a big Christian CSI game, looking for clues, hints, evidence and trusting in your gut (to coin the phrase of one of MY fictional heroes, Leroy Jethro Gibbs!).
I am who I am. I just have no idea who that is half the time. Or, maybe I just have a hard time accepting the truth of it as easily as God does.
I had a discussion with a friend last night that directly relates to this. We were both saying how we used to run when things got tough in relationships and in life, and that we still fight that instinct within us. But that we are feeling called, in this case by God, to learn to work through the difficulties. Because it is really in these difficulties, in the trying times, that the real relationship is built. Sounds like you know what I'm talking about. Our search for our true selves is really our search for God. And the relationship we have with him, in being ourselves, is the most challenging relationship we have. And we can't escape it. Let me know if you discover any tricks. ;)
Okay, I lied. I am going to Blog about something tonight.
A friend and I went to see a movie called The Losers the other night. That it stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chris Evans was enough to get me there. I do love a good action film. I love a movie that features good looking guys strutting around doing manly things. And I absolutely can't get enough of the tried-and-true story format of pitting good vs. evil. Mind you, there are degrees of good and degrees of evil, but we don't need to go there right now.
I was a little leery of this film, but it did not let me down. It was mega-action packed. The good guys straddle the line of morality, but they come through in the end. There is the hint of sex, but they never cross the line and there is no full nudity. There's lots of shooting and very little blood shed. It's like a modern-day A-Team. Which begs the question, will the modern-day A Team movie do the job as well?
In The Losers Jeffrey Dean Morgan (John Winchester from the television show Supernatural) leads a military team who has been betrayed and has been left for, and declared dead by, their sleazy US Government handler. They battle back to regain their reputation and their lives.
I am also a sucker for most TV shows and movies with a great team as the central "character" and The Losers has that at its core. There is only one member of the team that I didn't much care for. The rest were great characters and all had their own hooks that drew me in.
This is the first release in a string of Mercenary/Espionage/Action films that are due out this summer, and it is a great way to start. If you enjoy action films... if you enjoy a good, fast-paced movie... the The Losers might do it for you.
I feel like I have been shirking my duties around here. I came out of the gate so 'on fire' and I haven't done a thing in the past week. To be fair I was on extended days off from work. Not really a vacation, but definately a break from routine.
But I'm back. And I'm ready to Blog. Tomorrow. Tonight I have spent the past 7 hours downloading a bunch of my old music CDs to mu computer so that I can get rid of the hard copies. I feel a little tech-drunk, so I'll beg off a lengthier and more interesting post until tomorrow.
Tonight some friends and I are having a Moulin Rouge party, which is just an excuse to get together, eat some really good food, drink some Absinthe (Absente?) and watch Baz Luhrmann's movie which stars Ewan McGregor (yea!) and Nicole Kidman. Just out of the oven at my place are asparagus, mushroom, prosciutto and goat cheese Galette's, which is a french word for little pie like things apparently. They smell super-yummy and I can't wait to dig in. Also on the menu is French Onion soup, Brie and mushrooms, sausages and a crepe cake. We have it pretty good...
I have been reading a book called My Life With the Saints by Fr. Jim Martin, a Jesuit Priest. This is a book that my mum bought for me a couple of years ago. It's a book that I really wanted, and it was a book that I asked her for when she was looking for a gift for me one day. And it is a book that has sat on my shelf, unread, ever since. I honestly don't know why I haven't read it until now. Maybe it's because I can be shiftless and lazy, or maybe it's because it is one of the last things I received from my mum before she died and I wanted to make it last. It's hard to say.
But what I can say is that, in my four years of time with the Catholic Church, I have yet to be able to figure out what the saints are all about. Sure, they each have their special causes, and, sure, they are heroes for us... examples of what we can and should strive for in our lives. But, over and above that, what's the deal? Fr. Jim is leading me down the path to enlightenment.
It all started when I saw another copy of the book at a Catholic book store on sale... half off (sense a theme in my shopping, yet?). I immediately thought of my friend, Angie, and decided to buy it for her. Not only would it make a nifty gift for a friend, but then I could maybe rope her into reading it at the same time that I was, and it would give us something to talk about, other than television and movies (not that those aren't great, fun topics. But...).
She started reading before I did, and that gave me the impetus to dig in. I'm glad that it did. Fr. Jim has a great writing style. He truly engages me in the matieral and he makes me think beyond what little I know about the saints. More importantly, he is spurring me on to want to investigate further on my own. In what little I have read so far I have been moved to really ponder the lives of some of the saints; to sit with them and spend time with them and to try to get to know them and their motivations a little bit more. In other words, he is making the saints more real to me, and is helping me to engage them in my faith life.
But it's deeper than that. Through this book I am starting to ruminate with the saints (is that even a sentence? Travis, help me out here!). By that I mean that I am stewing with them. I am becoming immersed in them, bathing in the time I spend with them; allowing it to seep into me. And I need that. My prayer life can be amazingly shallow. I think I spend a lot of time in prayer, but I think that it is often empty prayer. Listless and stilted; often including the weather report, sadly enough ("Thanks for the awesome weather, Lord! Yuck, it's a bit rainy out today, Jesus. Can you change that for me?"). If I'm not talking about anything more important than TV with my friends, and the weather with Jesus, how deep of a life am I leading?
Okay, let's take a step back. My friends and I do engage in deeper conversation, but I think you get my drift. The easy road is talking about the latest TV shows and movies we have watched. The harder path is talking about how ridiculous you feel because you can't strike up a stunning conversation with God; or with people, for that matter.
But when I think of it it occurs to me that most of the time the intimate moments of my life are spent with my friends in companionable silence. Honestly, those are often the most meaningful moments for me. That I can sit quietly with a friend, and still feel that I have spent valuable time with them is an amazing experience. And it's a rare thing. I find that most people feel obligated to fill up the awkward moments of silence, often with meaningless chatter. I think it takes honesty, integrity and deep commintment to be able to sit silently with someone and to learn to enjoy their company that way. It is about the only time I am a good listener, really. If you sit quietly with someone you can get a real sense for what they are experiencing in their lives. You can tell if they are sad or happy, tense or relaxed, anxious or at peace. The spoken word often masks what we are truly experiencing.
So maybe my prayer life is a little deeper than I think. Maybe that time I spend sitting with God, not saying a word, which is probably 80% of my prayer time, is much more valuable than I have ever thought? I'm only halfway through what Fr. Jim wrote about St. Therese of Lesiux but my initial reaction is that he seems to portray her as someone who felt the presence of God very clearly. Someone who was immersed in his presence and someone who felt prayer more than recited prayer. Now that's a saint I can put my weight behind. That's a saint that I should be praying with. That's someone who I can understand, and, more importantly, who can understand me, even, probably, when I don't understand myself.
I remember when I first started learning about Catholicism that I didn't understand why Catholics were so excited about Jesus. He was the son, not The Man. You have God, the Father, so why do you need his kid? I thought Jesus was a guy who's picture hung on the walls of the houses of people who were sad and lonely. Boy was I wrong. It took me a while to understand who Jesus was... how integral he is in our lives. Now maybe I'll get a chance to meet some of the saints on a deeper level, too, and learn to view them as more than historical or mythological figures.
The good news is that I have plenty of time to learn. The better news is that there are a host of people out there who are willing to help me get where I need to go. You know who you are. At least those of you who I have already met. So, thanks guys! Never hesitate to give me a shove in the right direction. Clearly I need it.