Who Will I Be Tomorrow?

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It’s the last day of another year. I’m not feeling nostalgic enough to look back—it was another year full of highs and lows—and I don’t “do” resolutions. I don’t even make resolutions in disguise: “this year I will live up to my fullest potential!” So I am not sure what to say to mark the occasion of another year passing. It seems wrong to make no comment; it seems clichéd to write all about what I hope for in the new year. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other; I will expect another year full of love and laughter and tears and disappointments; I will continue to learn and grow and try to make my life better and bring joy and happiness to those around me. I don’t know who I will be tomorrow, but I am looking forward to meeting myself when I get there.

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Happy New Year WordPress readers! Thank you for joining me on this path of discovery…

The Art of Baking

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I’ve been thinking lofty thoughts lately, which isn’t a surprise because it is winter and I am both broody and reflective in the winter. I’ve had these moments of profound clarity about everyday life—moments when everything finally makes sense, and then I turn to my next wandering train of thought and never write down or articulate what I learned. And I have learned a lot lately, which I am bound to unlearn and relearn several times over and then change my mind about a few years down the road. I believe that this is called growth.

I’ve been pondering the idea of relationships, and careers, and being a female in a relationship with a career. I’ve been thinking about the idea of the “strong woman” (prompted by another woman who uses archaic ideas to justify her own lifestyle and then imposes that ideal on others). And I have been thinking about creativity and art and perfection. And in my wandering mind, all of these things go together. Relationships are an art; being in a relationship is hard work; love is messy and imperfect. The same can be said of womanhood, careers, writing, photography and cooking.

I tried to bake some bread last week. It was a gingerbread loaf, and I wanted to create something special for my boyfriend. The bread itself wasn’t hard to make, but I went against my better judgment and substituted an ingredient. So I ended up with a flat little loaf of bread. I was going to throw it away, but he said he would try it anyway. It didn’t look very pretty (as all baked goods should!) but it turns out that it tasted fairly good. I’m still not satisfied because I know how to bake and I am usually pretty good at it, but I have to remind myself that I haven’t baked in years and just getting out the pans and making something for someone I love was the important part.

As I was baking, I was thinking about how much I enjoy the process. I get lost in the art of measuring, stirring, and timing the baking. I know that what I make will bring happiness to someone else. I feel the same about writing; I get lost in the art of crafting a reflection. But I worry about the imperfections—the abstract thoughts that don’t quite fit, the misused words, poorly flowing phrases. Writing is like baking; every now and again a loaf will fall flat. The end result is that I enjoyed the process and something better may come out the next time. I have to mix the ingredients and put them in the oven first, and that is often the hardest part—taking the risk.

Relationships are always a risk. After my divorce, I was terrified of taking another risk. I lost so much that I loved and I sat on the floor saying “I can’t do this again!” over and over. I wasn’t willing to mix more ingredients and have another loaf of bread fall flat. Luckily, I got up off the floor and slowly started adding ingredients to a new relationship. It takes creativity and careful stirring and a willingness to let the process be messy. It takes self-awareness and mindfulness and compromise. There is never an end result in a relationship; there is only a process. We need to enjoy the process if we are to make the relationship work; we need to love the process in creativity and art and baking. Whatever I write will be perfect as long as I enjoy myself while I am doing it. And even if the flat bread tastes lousy in the end, I had fun while I was baking.

Darkness and Light

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The word “light” takes on new meaning when living in New England. I didn’t grow up here, but I have lived here for more than 10 years and I went to high school in the region. I’ve always known New England to be cold; I have always expected long winters and was warned about the “February Blues” when I lived at my New England boarding school. Cold and snow and New England are synonymous. So are the words February and cold. I expect winters in New England to be cold and snowy, what I can’t seem to get used to is the darkness.

Last winter I saw a sign outside of a restaurant that had closed for the season: Winter Well. It was a phrase that I wasn’t familiar with, and I found out that it means to survive for the winter months—to lay low, hibernate, stay warm and emerge again in the Spring. Winter well means to remain dormant in order to survive the winter months. As I look around in the darkness, I see signs of dormancy and hibernation. Fewer people leave their homes at night, a night that begins as soon as we leave work. There are hardly any lights; rural roads become black under cloudy starless skies. This is winter in New England.

The sun set today at 4:08pm. I would have noticed it getting dark halfway through the day if the day had been bright. But it was a cold and dreary day, and I never saw the daytime light. The sun came up, lingered behind the clouds for a little while and then set again. If the clouds hadn’t obscured the sun, it would have been so cold that I would have run to my car to get to the next warm place anyway. We scurry from one place to the next in an attempt to stay warm. When we do make it inside, someone always mentions the cold and someone else always mentions that it is winter in Maine. These are winters in New England.

I started to think about the darkness when I saw the weekly photo challenge prompt: Let There Be Light. In order for there to be light, there must be darkness. I feel myself fading in the winters; I load up on Vitamin D and stand under 200 watt light bulbs to simulate the feeling of sunshine on my skin. I miss the cheerfulness of other people, late nights outside, and feeling like the days never come to an end. In the darkness of winter, I brood. The days are short, people keep themselves close, and I barely get outside to see the beauty of the winter landscape. But there is a different splendor in winter that I always fail to see until the hot days of summer are on me. In winter, I curl up under a blanket with a book, or play a game or write a poem. I become reflective; I begin to think and learn. I curl up with someone I love and I am happy that I am not alone on a cold dark night in the middle of a Maine winter.

Gratitude

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This morning I woke up with a litany of complaints. I was annoyed because my pants were tight, irritated about the pile of bills that will wipe out my pay check, and exasperated by a dark winter storm. I am tired because I didn’t sleep well, frustrated by the job that provides the paycheck to pay the bills, and aggravated by a class that I am currently taking so that one day I can get a better job and pay more bills. I would have grumbled more if I wasn’t running late for the aforementioned job, especially since I had to drive through the previously mentioned dark winter storm.

I don’t feel bad or guilty for grumbling; in fact, I believe that a certain degree of grousing is healthy. While I may get up in the morning and whine about going to work, I have a meaningful career that impacts others in a positive way. And while I am helping others to learn and grow, I am also earning a salary that lets me be warm at night and eat until my pants no longer fit. I can watch the dark winter storm from the comfort of my bed. And when I do go outside, I know that I have a reliable car to get me to work safely, even if I am never on time. I complain about homework and assignments and non-responsive instructors, but I am grateful for the ability that allows me to complete those assignments and get good grades.

I don’t believe that we can or should move through life without worry or woe. Everything in nature exists in opposition with shades of wonder and beauty in between. We need to recognize those moments of irritation as moments that allow us to see what is important to us. Complaining only becomes a problem when we stop seeing the good. And being grateful becomes a problem when we are no longer able to see the bad. This morning I stopped grumbling for a moment to be grateful for my job and my bills and the man that kept me awake most of the night. I am loved and warm and well fed. But I am also tired and late for work. And so the story goes…

Silence

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I have been thinking about the nature of silence lately, especially the idea that to be heard we need to speak out loud. How often do we shout about the things that bother us? Yes, we need to speak out about injustice, but how often are injustices resolved simply because someone pointed it out? Our voices either get lost in the cacophony or they are used as a means to say that everyone was able to speak their mind. I believe in the power of communication; however, we cannot forget that silence is also a means of communication, and that there is a vast difference between remaining silent and being quiet.

Remaining silent is an action. Whether it is an act of defiance or submission, silence is deliberate and loud. Think of the anxiety that silence can provoke: a message that is deliberately not answered, a question that does not receive a response, an accusation that remains unchallenged. Silence makes us nervous and being nervous makes us angry. The act of remaining silent can then motivate further action. It can lead to more questions or it can stop an action from occurring. It can protect us when used wisely and it can harm us when used thoughtlessly. There is power in remaining silent when we make a well-reasoned choice to actively do so.

Being quiet, on the other hand, is reflective and passive. We may need time to think, so we pause for a moment to meditate on the answer. Being quiet simply means that we need time to remove ourselves from the noise, to step back for a moment before engaging, to be slow and thoughtful. Quiet is a state of being, a much needed pause in the noise of the day. By nature I am a quiet person; I enjoy moments of solitude when I can take a breath and recharge. I enjoy being in the company of those I love because I can be quiet and enjoy their presence without the pressure of having to say something.

There is a blurry line between being quiet and remaining silent, and I often see the confusion and anxiety that both can cause. I have been accused of remaining silent when all that I needed was a moment for reflection, and my perceived silence caused anxiety and anger. I have made others feel insecure when I pause to think about an answer and they assume that I am not answering for a reason. My quiet nature can be intimidating for some; others see it as a sign of weakness. However, I do not allow my quiet-ness to mean that I am voice-less. I speak up for what I believe in, and I communicate when I feel that I have been wronged. I am also quick to express my gratitude when I have benefitted from the generosity of others. Using my voice is my choice: I can speak out loud or I can speak by remaining silent.

While I have chosen to remain silent in the past few months, this action allowed me to see that I have also been very quiet. I needed time to think and reflect, to take a pause. It was necessary, but now I need to use my voice again, to find the balance between action and reflection. I may use my voice in silence, or I may use it in expression. However I choose to use my voice, I may. Hopefully, I will use it in a way that will allow me to be heard.

Erasure

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To write an erasure, a writer takes a poem and removes lines and words
thus creating a brand new poem.
Can I do the same with my memory?
I would erase pieces of my past,
thus creating a brand new life.

I would erase the parts where I was scared
when I wanted to run away from the shouting and the rage.

I would erase the parts where I was nervous
when I was waiting for the shouting to start.

I would erase the parts where I was angry
when I knew that I shouldn’t be treated badly but couldn’t stop the pain.

But if I erased the fear, the anxiety and the pain
All that I would remember was when I was happy.

So instead let me erase the times when I had fun
when we walked and talked and were friends.

Let me erase the days that were tender
when there was soft whispers and gentle touch.

Let me erase the moments that I miss
when we played together and made plans for the future.

To write an erasure, a writer takes a poem and removes lines and words
thus creating a brand new poem.
Can I do the same with my past?
If I could, I would erase my memory of happiness,
thus creating a brand new life without any pain.

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